MIAMI - Police and city leaders in Florida said they've taken precautionary steps for possible protests or civil unrest if George Zimmerman is acquitted in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
For months, officials have been working with pastors, youth coaches and community activists to stress a nonviolent approach once a verdict is announced, but police also have quietly been making plans to deal with potential violence.
In Sanford, the Alive After Five festival started on Friday, and people in the community continue to live their lives as if the trial wasn’t going on.
The public protest areas that were set up for the trial practically went unused.
But despite things being quite in Sanford, some groups are expecting worse and they’re already asking for peace once the verdict comes down.
Pastors from the Southern Christian Leadership Council are telling those who want to demonstrate to go elsewhere.
“Don't come to Sanford,” said the Rev. R.L. Gundy. “If you're going to do it, go to Orlando where Disney World is at.”
“Do you think just by talking about unrest, that creates the perception that there will be?” asked Channel 9’s Karla Ray.
“No. I think that by talking about unrest we should make sure we're telling people that we don't want it,” said Gundy, who resides in Jacksonville, not Sanford.
“It's a little frustrating for me to see gentlemen come in from outside and make some of those statements,” said Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett. “Although they're saying the right things, they give a perception that something is going on.”
City leaders said there haven't been any out of control protests so far, but they worry talk of problems will fuel a fire that doesn't exist.
“As it stands right now, we have nothing else on the radar saying people are coming, other than emails,” said Sanford police Chief Cecil Smith.
Gundy said his group is simply being proactive.
“Somebody has to say that to this nation,” he said. “We don't want there to be problems.”
There are resources in place should anything at all happen, including support from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
In South Florida where Martin was from, police may set up "First Amendment Zones" in the Miami area for peaceful rallies.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel also is airing TV ads stressing non-violence.
Zimmerman is on trial for second-degree murder in the shooting of Martin in Sanford. Martin's supporters say the shooting was racially motivated, while Zimmerman claimed self-defense.