Authorities, local leaders prepare for Zimmerman verdict
NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. (WSVN) -- Authorities, local leaders and activists are preparing for a George Zimmerman verdict and they are pleading for peace from the public.
The Fort Lauderdale/Broward County NAACP held a town hall meeting Thursday night to discuss the case and potential outcomes. "This gives people an opportunity to get a better understanding and to do a little venting," said Marsha Ellison of the Fort Lauderdale/Broward NAACP.
Also, a group of pastors met with Miami-Dade Police Director J.D. Patterson at the Peaceful Zion Missionary Baptist Church to spread a message of non-violence. "I think we respond positively. I believe that we are mature in our thinking as it relates to how people voice their concerns," said Pastor Dr. C.P. Preston Jr.
At the meeting, Patterson announced the creation of two First Amendment zones where people can gather if they so choose to voice their opinion. "We want people to be vocal; we just don't want them to be violent, so that's what we're expressing here: that it's OK to express yourself, but don't do it in a violent way," said Patterson.
The two First Amendment zones are located at Goulds Park at 11350 SW 216th Street in Southwest Miami-Dade and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park at 6160 NW 32nd Court in Northwest Miami-Dade.
"The plan is very, very fluid," Patterson said. "We basically are going to respond to that which is presented to us. We have the overall objective of basically maintaining peace and calm in the community, and we expect that."
Patterson is also expecting peaceful expressions of opinions. "It should almost be non-noticeable," Patterson said. "It should be routine, and if people again continue to conduct themselves in a manner that's non-violent and peaceful and things to that nature, then it should be a normal day."
Shanreka Perry Davis understands the need of a peaceful riot. Davis lost her leg in 1980 during the McDuffie riots in Miami. "No matter what the verdict is with the Trayvon Martin case, I'm sure Trayvon's parents wouldn't want us to tear up our own community," Davis said. "Zimmerman will not be affected by us tearing up or hurting ourselves. To me, if we do that, he wins twice."
The Miami-Dade Police Department has posted a message on their Facebook page regarding any incidents that may arise. "A rumor control hotline has been established beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, July 12, 2013, to address rumors and/or concerns regarding incident(s) that may arise in Miami-Dade County, Florida after a verdict is announced. This hotline will be staffed 24 hours a day until further notice, and can be reached by dialing 3-1-1."
The Broward Sheriff's Office has also established a rumor control hotline. The number is (954) 797-0977.
MDPD released a list of churches that will be open for prayer/singing/venting for Zimmerman verdict
After the defense gives their closing arguments Friday, the jury will deliberate the case and its verdict.
The Zimmerman family released a statement Friday night, saying, "From the onset of this tragic event, our family has been clear to express our trust in the judicial system. A jury of one's peers is the hallmark of our country's judicial system. The American justice system is the finest in the world. George's fate is now in the hands of the jury, who will make their decision based on evidence and the facts of the case. As we await a verdict we will remain hopeful and ask for the public to remain peaceful, no matter the outcome. Though we maintain George committed no crime whatsoever, we acknowledge that the people who called for George's arrest and subsequent trial have now witnessed both events come to pass. We hope now that, as Americans, we will all respect the rule of law, which begins with respecting the verdict. The judicial system has run its course-- pray for justice, pray for peace, pray for our country."
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