Gainesville Officials Are Prepared If Zimmerman Verdict Protests Happen
GAINESVILLE - The Zimmerman case is taking place in a small Florida town but the combination of race and the perception of bias have made it much larger. The verdict may be close, which raises questions as to how the North Central Florida community will react to the jurors decision. And local leaders say they don't know what to expect, no matter the outcome.
A lot of people fear that a not-guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trial will spark protests from those who think Trayvon Martin was wrongly killed. As the Sanford jurors deliberate, many anticipate what the decision will be. Whatever the case may be, community leaders in Gainesville say they are hoping for a peaceful reaction.
Many people disagree on whether George Zimmerman's trial is a self-defense or murder case. But one thing's for sure Zimmerman's fate lies in the hands of a jury in Sanford, who is currently deciding whether he is guilty or not. And while tensions run high all over Florida. What does it mean to North Central Florida? Should we brace for mayhem, no matter the outcome?
Evelyn Foxx the president of Alachua County's NAACP Chapter says that with the new era she doesn't know what to expect. "What do you think is going to happen? I have no idea what's going to happen. But I am just hoping that whatever happens, it does not spark the riots of 1965... That is the type of tension that I am feeling," Foxx said.
Foxx is getting ready for the NAACP's Annual Convention which is taking place this weekend, in Orlando. She says the organization has already spoken about protesting if Zimmerman is found not guilty. No matter what the trial's verdict turns out to be. Gainesville law enforcement is expecting people to exercise their first amendment and protest. Unlike sanford though, they won't be increasing security, they will however keep a close eye.
The Gainesville Police Department and the alachua county sheriffs office have made it clear though, that they have operational plans in place should they experience any type of civil unrest. While tensions run high, local leaders hope that people will not resort to violence. "We are encouraging our community... Especially the african american community to be peaceful and violence is not the way... We can get angry but that's about all we need to do," Foxx said.
Local civil-rights leaders hope to leave residents with a peaceful message. This why they're forming a rally in the memory of Trayvon Martin Saturday at 6pm in the Bartley Temple United Methodist Church in Gainesville. Where they will have a discussion about the case, and prayers for Martin's family.
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