APFICANGLOBE – Authorities in South Florida have released an online public service announcement urging potential protesters to “raise your voice and not your hands” after a verdict is reached in the George Zimmerman murder trial in the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
The video clip, titled “Raise Your Voice, Not Your Hands,” features police officers, teenagers and Miami Heat basketball star James Jones advocating peace.
The clip encourages viewers “to stand together as one – no cuffs no guns. Let’s give violence a rest because we can easily end up arrested … Don’t lack composure because in one instance it could be over so let’s make the choice and raise your voice and not your hands.”
“With the verdict coming, we wanted to get ahead of the curve and not wait until something happened,” said Broward County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Keyla Concepcion. “We want to get people talking now. We know the power of social media. We aren’t sitting here with our arms crossed just waiting for something to happen.”
In an attempt to reach a younger crowd, the department has turned to social media and is promoting the hashtag #raiseyourvoice on Twitter.
“Everyone is keeping their ears open, monitoring social media and seeing what kind of comments are being made,” Concepcion said. “In a matter of just minutes on social media you can gather a sizable crowd — whether it be for positive or negative.”
Supporters of the message have taken to twitter with the trending hashtag #KeepCalmForTrayvon. Both the Zimmerman and the Martin families have appealed for peace since the February 2012 shooting.
Although the trial is taking place more than 200 miles north of Broward County in Seminole County, Concepcion said everyone needs to be prepared.
“When things happen they don’t happen based on county lines or city borders,” she said. “All of the departments are trying to work together and communicate,”
Despite claims that the counties are working together, Heather Smith, spokesperson for the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said there is no coordinated response plan with Broward in place.
“We had nothing to do with and no knowledge of that release or that video,” Smith said. “Nor are we working with Broward on any kind of response plan.”
Smith added that the Seminole sheriff’s office has been working non-stop over the past year to make sure the community is safe.
“We haven’t been disclosing our security plan and will not disclose anything in the future,” she said. “We are working to ensure the safety of our resident and visitors and we expect that our community will continue to act in a peaceful manner.”
Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara, told Piers Morgan that he is concerned for his client’s safety.
“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,” O’Mara said. “So he’ll never be safe.”
Lowman Oliver, a pastor at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford, said people in the city have been watching the trial closely and feel invested in the verdict. His daughter, Natalie Jackson, is an attorney for Trayvon Martin’s parents.
Oliver said he and others feel they accomplished justice by getting Zimmerman arrested and brought to trial, and having the Sanford Police Department investigated for its handling of the case.
Still, Oliver said it’s possible people might get violent or riot with a not-guilty verdict. He pointed mainly to young people who he says may not understand how to properly voice their anger.
“It’s going to seem like you can stereotype and profile and it’s OK,” Oliver said. “A person can then shoot you and cry out I was scared.”
Even with those frustrations, Oliver said he has cautioned people to focus on being constructive citizens and properly express disappointment.
“People have a right to get angry and not like the outcome,” he said. “But don’t riot and sin. That’s not the right way to handle anything that you’re dissatisfied with.”
By: Natalie DiBlasio and Yamiche Alcindor