Law enforcement officials in Florida have begun coordinating a “response plan” in anticipation of a verdict in the murder trial of George Zimmerman.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday that it was working closely with the Sanford Police Department ahead of the verdict, which could be announced as early as this week.
“Freedom of expression is a constitutional right,” the office said in a statement. “While raising your voice is encouraged, using your hands is not.”
Sheriff Scott Israel said there’s no credible evidence that a specific event might take place at the conclusion of Zimmerman’s trial, but he’s urging residents in Florida to keep protests peaceful.
Broward County Sheriff officials also released a 36-second video accompanying the statement, encouraging residents — particularly youngsters — to channel emotions into non-violent responses. The video, titled “Raise Your Voice, Not Your Hands,” includes two teenagers and Israel.
“Let’s back up and choose not to act up, and deputies are with us, so no need to act up,” one teen says.
“I’m Sheriff Scott Israel, and law enforcement does have your back,” the sheriff replies.
Zimmerman, 29, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming self-defense in his fatal confrontation with Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Meanwhile, Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s lead attorney, told CNN on Monday that his client will never be safe, regardless of the trial’s outcome.
“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,” O’Mara said. “So, he’ll never be safe.”