County Leaders Discuss What To Do After Zimmerman Verdict
MIAMI (CBS4) — The case is still not in the hands of the jury, but local law enforcement agencies are preparing for reaction to the George Zimmerman trial verdict.
The Miami-Dade Police Department and the Broward Sheriff’s Office took part in separate meetings Tuesday to discuss the possibility of violence in response to the verdict.
Several of Trayvon Martin’s family members were in attendance at a town hall meeting at the North Dade Regional Library.
During the question and answer period, Miriam Martin, Trayvon Martin’s aunt, stood and urged those in attendance to remain peaceful.
“We don’t want any violence,” Miriam Martin said. “I speak for Sybrina and Tracy,” she said, referencing Trayvon Martin’s parents.
“Don’t do anything crazy,” Tina Owens said. Owens is Trayvon Martin’s cousin. “No riots, no nothing.”
The same message was echoed by elected leaders, pastors and police as the community prepares for the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
“The worst case scenario for this community is that Trayvon not get the justice that he deserves,” Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan told CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana.
The Miami-Dade Community Relations Board hosted the town hall meeting to educate the public, not just on how to react to possible outcomes, but on what’s happening in the courtroom now.
“It’s very difficult for people who are not trained in legal system to really understand what’s going on in the trial,” CRB chairman Dr. Walter Richardson said.
Last year, students staged walk-outs at several schools in support of Trayvon Martin.
Now, police are considering instituting zones where people can demonstrate peacefully and pastors plan to open their church doors to protestors.
The goal is to avoid riots like the ones seen in Miami in the 80s.
“We’ve had several situations where we’ve failed. We failed,” Miami-Dade Police Deputy Director Juan Perez told Pastrana. “I think now we’ve come a long way as a community and as law enforcement in merging together and bridging together our resources.”
In Broward, Sheriff Scott Israel is also working with the community on similar contingency plans.
“We understand, if people don’t like the verdict, encourage people to have your voices heard. Protest,” Sheriff Scott said. “We are not going to infringe on your First Amendment rights.”
Those in attendance at the meeting were urged to share the message with others, specifically through social media.
“We want everyone to promote the message of non-violence,” Jude Bruno said. Bruno is the chair of the Miami-Dade Youth Commission.
“So whenever they are tweeting, isntagramming about the trial, always put that hashtag #KeepCalmforTrayvon,” Bruno said.
Trayvon Martin’s cousin started a Facebook page where she constantly urges people to remain peaceful in their protests.
“If the case doesn’t go how we want it to go, have a peace rally, have a prayer,” Tina Owens said. “But a riot? That’s not what my family is about.”