Now that the defense has rested in the George Zimmerman trial and it appears that there is a good chance that true justice will prevail, local police and city leaders in Florida say they have taken precautionary steps for the possibility of mass protests or even civil unrest, if George Zimmerman is acquitted in the killing of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, particularly in African-American neighborhoods, where passions run strongest over the case.

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.

Martin, from the suburb of Miami Gardens, was 17 when he died.  He was in Sanford visiting his father and his father’s fiancée, when Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, fatally shot him during a physical confrontation in a gated community in February 2012.

Martin’s supporters portrayed the shooting as racially motivated, while Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic, claimed self-defense.  Charged with second-degree murder, Zimmerman is pleading not guilty at the trial unfolding in a Sanford courthouse.  After police initially refused to arrest Zimmerman, there were many large but peaceful protests in both Sanford and the Miami area — as well as in New York and other cities.  Those demonstrations included a mass walkout at nearly three dozen South Florida high schools.

A Zimmerman acquittal might anger many in the African-American community who already feel they are less likely to obtain justice.  One potential advantage mentioned by several law enforcement officials is that school is out for the summer, meaning there is no ready-made rallying point for young people to gather.  Still, authorities are taking no chances, particularly in the Miami area which has had riots in the past connected to racially charged court cases.

The worst rioting occurred in 1980 in the mostly black Liberty City and Overtown neighborhoods of Miami after four white police officers were acquitted in the death of Arthur McDuffie, a black Marine Corps veteran.  McDuffie was beaten to death by police trying to stop him for a traffic violation.  The three-day riot killed 18 people and did some $100 million in damage.

The Miami-Dade Police Department’s intelligence operation, has been combing social media to monitor signs of unusual interest in Zimmerman’s trial.  The center also acts as a platform for South Florida’s numerous police agencies to quickly share information.  Law enforcement’s goal is to allow for peaceful rallies or protests, but be ready in case violence flares.  Plans call for establishment of “First Amendment Zones” in certain neighborhoods, if crowds do gather, so people can exercise their rights.

“We want to make sure people have the right to protest,” a police spokesman said.  But if there are problems, he added, “Our job is going to be to minimize those opportunities to rob a store or shoplift.”

To the north in Broward County, the local Sheriff and his staff have organized several meetings with African-American church and community leaders and recently began airing a public service TV ad featuring Miami Heat player James Jones.  The theme presented, “is raise your voices, not your hands.”

Similarly, in central Florida, religious leaders have been encouraged to attend the trial and discuss it with their congregations.  Up to four courtroom seats were reserved for clergy on a rotating basis, and more than a dozen churches have held regular Monday prayer sessions during the trial.

Here we go again, the poor black man is mistreated and there is no justice.  Don’t forget the furious debate on white nightly news over the use of the N-word a couple of weeks ago, but nothing much is being said about potential violence by black youth in south Florida, if Zimmerman walks.  What a double standard that we live by, when a white woman can be verbally castrated by the media over something that was said 20 or 30 years ago while being robbed at gunpoint, while violence and rioting by black youth is socially and morally excused and expected, should justice prevail.

Reverse racism is alive and well in this country and no one is willing to reverse the trend, since the 1960’s.  This trial is not about the color of Trayvon Martin, but more about the fact that he became assaultive when confronted and George Zimmerman acted in self-defense and made the decision to fire his weapon.  I wonder what justice the community would be demanding, if the results would have been reversed.  The mayor’s office and the media have made this case one of race from the very beginning and Zimmerman was only charged after the former police chief was forced to step down.  Prior to that point, the police department had concluded that this shooting was lawful and justified under the state statutes defining self-defense.  Everything changed after wide spread demonstrations by the black community and the local mayor demanded that the case be reopened and he appointed a new police chief to do his bidding.  If Zimmerman had died that night, the black community would have protested over Tryvon Martin’s arrest.  So much for social equality and justice.

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