MIAMI (CBS4) — The Miami-Dade Police Department is partnering with local pastors in anticipation of the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
From the pulpit of the Peaceful Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Miami-Dade Police Director JD Patterson preached peace Thursday evening.
“Riots are not acceptable and riots are not expected,” Patterson said.
MDPD’s motto for the outcome of the case is “Be vocal, not violent.”
“We don’t have anything to give us any indication otherwise, so we expect a peaceful event as a result of the verdict,” Patterson told CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana.
In the month following the death of Trayvon Martin, South Florida students staged walk-outs. The demonstrations were public, yet peaceful rallies in support of the teen who lived here.
With the trial coming to a close, some worry people may turn to rioting.
One pastor stood at the meeting and told Patterson he believes Miami will be “Ground Zero” for violence and looting.
His colleagues were quick to say the city has matured since the riots of 1980.
“I know that child was born and raised here in Miami,” one pastor said of Trayvon Martin. “He got killed up in Sanford. But that has no reason for our young folk to get fired up and talk about bringing destruction on the city.”
The police director said so-called “First Amendment zones” have been designated where people can gather to express their thoughts.
— Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park
6160 NW 32nd Ct, Miami, FL 33142
— Goulds Park
11350 SW 216th St, Miami, FL 33170
Pastors at the meeting Thursday promised to open their churches after the verdict for those looking for fellowship and a chance for reflection and prayer.
“The point is, we just don’t want people sporadically in places unplanned, spontaneously, voicing themselves in such a way that it brings up anger and hostility and violence,” Patterson said.
The police director said he hopes faith will help the community, no matter the outcome.
“We have to be very positive and leave things in the hands of God,” said Dr. CP Preston, Jr., the pastor at the Peaceful Zion Missionary Baptist Church. “He is the God of justice and he is control of the affairs in this world.”
As of Thursday night, no official events had been planned at the designated First Amendment zones.