Don't Assume Blacks Will Riot If Zimmerman's Acquitted

Demonstrators stand for justice for Trayvon Martin. (David McNew/Getty Images)
Demonstrators stand for justice for Trayvon Martin. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Pointing out that the last major race riot in the U.S. occurred 21 years ago in Los Angeles, Marc W. Polite writes at Time magazine that early calls for calm before a verdict is rendered in George Zimmerman's second-degree-murder trial run "counter to recent history, and may be akin to racial fear mongering."

As the trial of George Zimmerman winds down, the Orlando police are reportedly bracing for possible riots in the event that the defendant walks. The Broward County Sheriff's Office release two public service announcements urging people to "raise their voice, not their hands" if they are unhappy with the verdict. Meanwhile, church leaders, who have been given seats at the trial, have pledged to use their influence in the community to quell any violence.

Given the way law enforcement delayed over Trayvon Martin's fatal shooting—it was 46 days before George Zimmerman was arrested—there is cause for concern. It was a groundswell of protest from the black community that brought the shooting to the nation's attention—remember the One Million Hoodie March? This case has sparked a movement—in defense of young black men and in opposition to Stand Your Ground law. But the pre-emptive call for calm runs counter to recent history, and may be akin to racial fear mongering.

The last major racial riot occurred in Los Angeles after four police officers were acquitted in the brutal beating of Rodney King. That was 21 years ago. Since then, there have been several other racially-charged cases that might have provoked an outpouring of protest but did not. The police officers who murdered Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets were acquitted in 2008, and no riots ensued. The indictment of the officer that shot and killed Bronx teenager Ramarley Graham was tossed out earlier this year, even with footage of the police following him into his Bronx home. His mother didn't call for riots. She made t-shirts to protest.


Read Marc W. Polite's entire piece at Time.

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