Florida Sheriff Ready for Riots After Zimmerman Verdict

Tuesday, 09 Jul 2013 03:29 PM

By Tom Topousis

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The sheriff of Broward County, Fla., is moving to head off riots following a verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial. His effort includes a video with teenagers urging people to "raise your voice and not your hands."

Zimmerman, 29, who is Hispanic, is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black youth. Martin was visiting his father in Sanford, Fla., where Zimmerman was a member of a community patrol, when the two crossed paths on Feb. 26, 2012. They got into a fight and Zimmerman's gun went off, killing Martin.

Zimmerman's racially charged trial, which began June 24, has prompted a national debate over the use of deadly force and whether race played a role in the shooting.

"We don't have information about a specific event that might take place at the conclusion of the trial, but we encourage everyone to keep any protests peaceful," Sheriff Scott Israel said in a prepared statement unveiling the video and his anti-violence outreach.

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The video released Monday encourages people to speak out peacefully, while steering clear of violence.

"Raise your voice," a teenage girl says, "and not your hands," adds a teenage boy, with Israel, several sheriff's deputies, and other teens standing behind them.

"We need to stand together as one, no cuffs, no guns," the girl says. "Let's give violence a rest, because we can easily end up arrested," the boy says.

"I know your patience will be tested," the girl says, before the two teens say in unison: “but law enforcement has your back.”

With a verdict expected this week or next, the Sheriff’s Office said its Strategic Investigation Division has been “monitoring the pulse of the situation, maintaining open lines of communication with community leaders, civic activists, members of the clergy, as well as local, state and federal agencies.”

The Sheriff’s Office said it is working closely with Sanford police and other local police agencies to coordinate a response plan ahead of the verdict. Broward County, which encompasses Fort Lauderdale, is about 200 miles from Sanford, where the trial is being held.

"Freedom of expression is a constitutional right. While raising your voice is encouraged, using your hands is not," the Sheriff’s Office said.

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The public-service announcement was produced with the help of teens from the Jason Taylor Foundation, H.A.N.D.Y. (Helping Abused, Neglected, Disadvantaged Youth) and Miami Heat player James Jones.

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