Authorities plan for anticipated tensions
"Freedom of expression is a constitutional right," the Sheriff's Office says
However, raising your hand is not, authorities warn
Florida authorities have a message as the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial looms: raise your voice, not your hands.
Anticipating that the outcome of the very public, and racially-tinged, case is likely to disappoint one swath of the population or another, law enforcement agencies have set up a response plan.
Part of it is a public service announcement that the Broward County Sheriff’s Office released this week.
In it, a black teenage boy and a Hispanic girl urge viewers to “stand together as one. No cuffs, no guns.”
Zimmerman is a white Hispanic who is on trial for last year’s shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a black teen, in Sanford city. Sanford is in Seminole County.
He is charged with second-degree murder, and says he acted in self-defense. Prosecutors are arguing he profiled the teen.
Millions of Americans have already made up their minds about what should happen. And no matter how the verdict falls, authorities worry passions will be inflamed.
That’s where the video comes in – a plea not to resort to violence.
“Freedom of expression is a constitutional right,” the sheriff’s office said. “While raising your voice is encouraged, using your hands is not.”
In the video, the boy says, “Let’s give violence a rest, because we can easily end up arrested.”
The girl adds, “Let it roll off your shoulders. It’s water off your back, don’t lack composure. Because in one instant it could be over.”
The case has triggered a nationwide debate about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, race and racial profiling.
“People care about gun rights. People care about race. People care about children. People care about the right to defend yourself,” said CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin. “And this case has all of them wrapped up together, and that’s rare.”
Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara, told CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live” that regardless of the outcome, his client will forever be looking over his shoulder:
“First of all, my client will never be safe, because there are a percentage of the population who are angry, they’re upset, and they may well take it out on him,” he said. “So, he’ll never be safe.”
CNN’s Cristy Lenz contributed to this report