Anti-rioting campaign criticized

Sheriff encouraged peaceful protests following verdict in George Zimmerman trial


PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Prior to receiving a verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, there was plenty of media attention about potential riots in South Florida that haven't happened.

The Broward Sheriff's Office campaign, called "Raise Your Voice, Not Your Hands," sparked a lot of national media attention -- much of it speculating that riots were going to rock South Florida and some of it downright erroneous.

Special section: George Zimmerman trial

Conservative media outlets like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News took the lead, trumpeting Sheriff Scott Israel's campaign as an indication that the populace was preparing to riot.

"It's kind of pathetic that a court of law cannot be in a vacuum ... without the influence of the public threatening to do great bodily harm," said Mark Fuhrman on Sean Hannity's Fox News show.

Sheriff Israel had in fact made it clear that the public had made no such threats. Some took umbrage with the entire campaign saying it was insulting to the black community and accusing the sheriff of political grandstanding.

"There are those in the community that feel that this is a political move," said Westside Gazette Editor Bobby Henry. "This 'raise your voice and not your hand' was something that I thought was a statement that was devaluing us as a community ... I thought it was a slap in the face."

Zoharian Williams, the teenage poet who wrote and performed in one of the sheriff's PSAs, said he felt the message was appropriate considering past riots. Monday Williams was out on Sistrunk Boulevard wearing a symbolic hoodie and calling for peaceful protest of the not guilty verdict. He also performed his latest poem.

"I am Trayvon Martin. I was killed because I was stereotyped," Williams recited. "You might think killing me was okay because I scared you, but I was being followed at night maybe I was scared, too. ... We are all Trayvon Martin."