FLORIDA, July 11, 2013 — Police officials in Florida are concerned about riots in the wake of a verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
On a cold late February evening in 2012, the neighborhood watch captain fatally shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman claims that he acted in self-defense. Since then, Martin’s history of truancy, firearms-related issues, and handling marijuana, among other things, has come to light.
Originally, no charges were to be filed against Zimmerman. After a special prosecutor was commissioned, however, he was charged with second-degree murder.
Evidence indicates that Zimmerman suffered head injuries the night Martin died, though exactly how and why remains a mystery. What can be certain, however, is that the shooting’s aftermath has been highly polarizing.
It has also drawn considerable attention to the oft-overlooked central Florida port city of Sanford, where the shooting took place. Said polarization and attention are rooted in racial tensions which have long plagued American society.
“Police in Sanford … have prepared a contingency plan for how to deal with possible riots if George Zimmerman is not convicted in the murder of Trayvon Martin,” Meghan Keneally of England’s Daily Mail reports.
She later mentions that “they are taking a pre-emptive approach as they have started going door-to-door in the area warning residents about possible riots or uprisings should the former neighborhood watch member be acquitted in the murder trial.
“According to Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith, who was promoted after the former police chief resigned amid the Martin shooting scandal, they are more concerned about out-of-towners causing trouble than local residents.”
Fears of rioting are not limited to Sanford, however. Several hours south in Broward County, home to Fort Lauderdale and its suburbs, Sheriff Scott Israel is taking a soft approach to quelling his angered constituents.
His department recently released a video urging people to remain calm. Its methodology is more than a bit unorthodox.
“The video, titled ‘Raise Your Voice, Not Your Hands,’ focuses on attempting to channel reaction into non-violent response,” notes Ben Shapiro of Breitbart. “It depicts two youngsters, one black teenage boy, one Hispanic teenage girl. ‘Raise your voice!’ says the girl. ‘And not your hands!’ says the boy. ‘We need to stand together as one, no cuffs, no guns,’ says the girl. ‘Let’s give violence a rest, because we can easily end up arrested,’ says the boy. ‘I know your patience will be tested,’ says the girl, and then both conclude, ‘but law enforcement has your back!’
“’Let’s back up and choose not to act up, and deputies are with us, so no need to act up,’ says the boy. ‘Let it roll off your shoulders,’ says the girl, ‘it’s water off your back, don’t lack composure, because in one instant it could be over.’ Both conclude: ‘So let’s make the choice to raise your voice and not your hands.’ Sheriff Scott Israel says, ‘I’m Sheriff Scott Israel, and law enforcement does have your back.’”
Closing arguments in Zimmerman’s trial are expected to begin today.
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