George Zimmerman. (Reuters/Joe Burbank)
Late yesterday morning, MSNBC reported, perhaps first, that two local Florida police departments had asked the judge in the Zimmerman case to hold off announcing any jury verdict if it comes on a weekend (such as the one coming up), fearing civil unrest.
Not sure these days how much the timing would matter—but still revealing. Following that report, MSNBC went out of its way to cool matters, by asking some guests to comment on whether justice would be served in any outcome, since the Martin family got its day in court. Indeed, one guest, I believe Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post, claimed that Trayon’s mom told him months ago that she would accept any jury verdict.
It seemed like they had feared they were fanning certain flames—or picturing a certain segment of the community as riot-prone—and felt the need to back off.
However, this inspired me to look at local coverage of this same issue. Indeed, I found that local police have already released a PSA video appealing for calm as the jury considers the case. Watch it and an earlier one here.
The 36-second video features law enforcement officials, kids from the Jason Taylor Foundation and James Jones of the Miami Heat. The participants shout “raise your voice, not your hands” and “let’s give violence a rest, because we can easily end up arrested.” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said in a statement on the website that his agency has no information “about a specific event that might take place at the conclusion of the trial, but we encourage everyone to keep any protests peaceful.”
Interview with local police chief here. Wide local media coverage of this angle for several days now–even up in Atlanta and preparations there. Seems like police preparations, and coverage, launched a few days back when it became clear to many that the prosecution was fumbling the case and Zimmerman was likely to go free.
For months, officials in Sanford and South Florida have been working with pastors, youth coaches, community activists and summer camp counselors to stress a non-violent approach if Zimmerman walks free. At the same time, police say they have quietly been making plans for dealing with any potential emotional flare-ups that could quickly turn into storefront-smashing, car-burning riots.
What does justice for Trayvon look like?