By Derrick Perkins
Mayor Bill Euille expressed deep qualms about George Zimmerman’s acquittal but called for residents to use the verdict — and the death of Trayvon Martin — as a teachable moment.
“While I respect the decision by the jury in the Trayvon Martin case, I am also troubled by the outcome,” Euille said in a statement. “Like so many Americans, I believe that Trayvon’s death was a tragedy, and while we must always have faith in our judicial system, one must question how an innocent child walking in his neighborhood could end up dead at the hands of an armed neighborhood watchman — only for that man to be found not guilty by a paneled jury.”
A jury found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder or a lesser charge of manslaughter last week following a trial that captured national attention. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader, shot Martin dead in February 2012 after a confrontation in a Sanford, Fla., gated community.
Zimmerman said that he fired in self-defense. But the 17-year-old’s death — and the hesitance of law enforcement to press criminal charges against Zimmerman — sparked protests across the country.
Euille, the city’s first black mayor, is joining a string of politicians — including President Barack Obama — and civil rights leaders in calling for a peaceful discussion following the verdict.
“Rather than becoming more frustrated, we must take this time to come together to talk about how we can overcome this decision and look forward to a positive and promising future regarding human and race relations in America,” Euille said.
To that end, he is organizing a community forum at the Charles Houston Recreation Center on Saturday. The event — from noon to 1:30 p.m. — is being held in conjunction with the city’s human rights commission and local NAACP chapter.
Euille’s latest calls echo those that he made during a vigil before Zimmerman’s arrest for the shooting. Then donning a gray, hooded sweatshirt — an homage to the clothing Martin wore the night he died — the mayor urged residents to “come together [in] a united cause to advocate for love, respect, race relations, [and] civil and human rights for everyone.”