Moving on from tragedy

Fla. town somberly absorbs Zimmerman verdict
Associated Press
Jul 16, 2013

Almost 70 years after Jackie Robinson was run out of town, Sanford is absorbing what some see as another blow to race relations: the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Some black residents of this community of almost 50,000 people where the shooting took place say that while relations between black and white have improved over the years, progress has been slow and the Martin case demonstrated that problems persist.

James Tillman, who is black, said Saturday's verdict just adds to his mistrust of local authorities, who have been criticized over the years for their handling of other crimes against blacks. Tillman, 47, said city officials try to portray Sanford as a "quiet and laid-back town."

"This town here is one of the worst towns about covering things up," Tillman said, stopping his bike in front of a memorial to the 17-year-old Martin. "When you put something in the closet, it's going to burst back on you."

Sanford, a mostly middle-class suburb of Orlando, about 25 miles away, has reacted somberly — and peacefully — to the verdict. The city was mostly silent the morning after the verdict, in contrast to the rallies that drew thousands not long after the shooting.

Only a few people went past the permanent memorial built in the city's historically black Goldsboro neighborhood to honor the Miami teen.

Standing in front of the memorial, Venitta Robinson, the minister at Allen Chapel, said she hopes the black community doesn't dwell on the verdict.

"It's a little disheartening, but that was the process we go through as far as having a jury, and that's the verdict that they had, and we have to respect that," said Robinson, who is black. "We don't necessarily have to like it, but we have to respect it."

In just the 17 months since the killing, Sanford has changed: The city, which is about one-third black, now has a black police chief and its first black city manager.

Before the shooting, Sanford was best known for its antiques shops and as the southern terminus for Amtrak's Autotrain, which carries tourists and their cars between Florida and the Washington area.

The police department was heavily criticized for declining to charge Zimmerman at first, and he wasn't arrested until 44 days after the shooting, by order of a special prosecutor.

But the distrust between Sanford's city government and its black citizens predates the Martin case by several decades.

A large portion of the black community lives in Goldsboro, which was Florida's second city incorporated by African-Americans when it was founded in 1891. Tensions were inflamed when an expanding Sanford annexed Goldsboro in 1911.

In 1946, Sanford was the site of the botched start of Jackie Robinson's first steps toward breaking baseball's color barrier.

Robinson had been sent to Sanford for his first spring training with the Brooklyn Dodgers' minor-league Montreal Royals. Two days after he arrived, he was sent to the Dodgers' minor-league team in Daytona Beach after getting death threats from Sanford residents.

In 1997, on the 50th anniversary of Robinson's breaking into the majors, then-Sanford Mayor Larry Dale issued a proclamation apologizing for Robinson's treatment.

That tension has re-emerged in recent years because of several shootings of blacks and an attack on a black homeless man.

In 2010 Justin Collison, the 21-year-old son of a white Sanford police lieutenant, was videotaped leaving a bar and punching a homeless man named Sherman Ware in the back of the head, causing serious injuries.

Police officers arrived within minutes, looked at the video and spoke to witnesses who said the attack was unprovoked, but they let Collison go after he called his father.

After the video became public and spurred protests, Collison was charged almost two months later with battery and disorderly conduct. He struck a plea bargain and was sentenced to probation, anger management and substance abuse counseling — but no jail time.

In February 2010, Dennis Williams was shot on the front steps of his home while he held his 9-month-old son. Police have never been able to identify a suspect.

That same month, a Sanford police investigator shot and killed Nicholas Eugene Scott in his car as officers tried to arrest him in a supermarket parking lot. Prosecutors ruled the shooting justified.

Cecil Smith, who became police chief earlier this year after Bill Lee Jr. lost his job in the fallout over the Martin case, promised at a prayer service on Monday to try to ease the mistrust in the community.

"Everyone is watching the people of Sanford," he said. "We may not have liked the outcome of this trial, but we are united enough to say we are starting to move forward."

In downtown Sanford, business owners hope tourism will rebound from the hit it has taken from the furor.

Howard Marks, a civil rights attorney and owner of an art gallery in Sanford's historic district, said the city has been unfairly cast as a racist and dangerous place.

"Sanford's got issues like any other town," said Marks, who is white, "but this town is as good a town with as good a people as any town in the state of Florida."

He added: "The case is never going to be over in some people's mind. But I think as far as Sanford, the worst of that is over."

___

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower.

 

Comments

Contango

The prosecution presented a poor case and the jury found Zimmerman not guilty - End of story.

Instead of focusing on minutia, it's time to move on and focus on the FACT that 94% of black victims are killed by black offenders.

The black culture of intraracial violence is the "system" that needs fixing, NOT the justice system.

arnmcrmn

Youtube reaction to this verdict and you will see a slew of videos by black people who say the opposite. I watched one guy on a news interview scream that everyone is out to get the black man and everyone is slaying the black man. I guess he doesn't have his facts straight.....obviously.

Agree...time to let this go, but the media will play this out as long as they can. The media is most of the problem why the racial stuff still lingers on.

sandtown born a...

Agreed the media as well as this paper will run this story into the next century if it helps ratings/paper sales

ladydye_5

Agreed...this paper has ran numerous stories, all the same thought but with different headlines. HUNDREDS of comments. HUNDREDS of rants. LET it go already. You can only twist the story so many ways.

There you go again

The sooner people learn and understand the law the sooner people will understand why Zim was acquited. Too many people are quick to judge and want to make it another race issue. Thank you Mr. President for bringing race into the picture by asking people to "honor" Trayvon and for blasting Zim's right to defend. No wonder our nation is more divided than ever!

coasterfan

ThereYou... Your first 2 sentences make a lot of sense. Your final 2 sentences are straight from the usual Fox News drivel.

The divisiveness in our country since 2008 has come mostly from Republican leadership, who oppose anything and everything Obama tries to do, even when it has bi-partisan support. It reached its zenith recently when Mitch McConnell filibustered his OWN bill. You may have heard about the little "project" Harry Reid is working on today, to stop the GOP from being the party of intransigence, and the party of 'no'? Democrats are always willing to compromise, but the Tea Party folks think compromise is a four-letter-word. Their my-way-or- highway stance is the epitome of divisiveness, and they are the most of the reason this Congress is known as a "Do Nothing Congress".

Please explain what Obama has done to divide the country, other than the obvious fact that many conservatives hate him simply because he isn't old and white.

There you go again

Obama has politicized this court case by declaring "If I had a son he'd look like Trayvon". He wanted the public to relate Trayvon to his family as a poor, innocent victim. Mr. Holder ( who has enough problems of his own to deal with) has announced that a civil case will be considered against Zimmerman. Did he not read the FBI's investigation that concluded that Zimmerman exhibited no signs of racism prior the the attack? How about we listen to the jurors' story, after all they know the facts more than you and I!?!? Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder have enough scandals on their plate.

Darwin's choice

Coasterfan, step away from the Obama the messiah altar! Obama has done more damage to the U.S. and our economy than all before him combined! That moonbat Harry Ried should be in jail! Also, speaking of racism, your last sentence shows yours!

VOTENO

You must watch a lot of Fox News coasterflan.

UgtaBkdnMe

You would only know what was said on Fox news if you are a watcher of Fox news. Sounds like Coaster is a closet watcher.

The Big Dog's back

Coasterfan like myself keep our friends close, our enemies (faux) even closer. Always know what your enemy is planning.

Darwin's choice

Say's someone who got his last meal from licking his hiney! Who is the "enemy" Big Dog? You are really narrowing yourself into a cage....

Darwin's choice

Coasterfan, please explain the following Obama appointee's:

Arif Alikhan - Assistant Secretary for Policy
Development
for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Mohammed Elibiary - Homeland Security Adviser
Rashad Hussain - Special Envoy to the
Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)
Salam al-Marayati - Obama Adviser and
founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council
and is its current executive director
Imam Mohamed Magid - Obama's Sharia Czar from
the Islamic Society of North America
Eboo Patel - Advisory Council on Faith-Based
Neighborhood Partnerships

No division here.....wake up!

goofus

The whole case was made up of lies
http://www.americanthinker.com/b...

deertracker

It's time to move on guys. Let it go!

2cents

"Almost 70 years after Jackie Robinson was run out of town"

Do I detect a pun : )

PaulYall

Racism will only stop when you quit speaking about it!

sandtown born a...

RIOT yes that's the answer, if you want to be taken seriously you shouldn't act like thug animals destroying property and harming innocent people. This behavior only strengthens the racists views of blacks. A big handfull of unruly people will tarnish many

The Big Dog's back

Like bush did in Iraq?

goofus

Such a shame, I enjoy Sanford Florida the river district is fantastic. Really enjoy Hollerbach's Willlow Tree restaurant, great german food!!!

The Big Dog's back

sanford is teabagger capital of Florida.

goofus

And yes, I live in a gated community near Sanford!!!!

shucks

Why do you comment in Sandusky when you live in Florida?

The Big Dog's back

Because he is a registered teabagger.

Mystery_Cheese

See, this is the problem with the world. Instead of addressing the real threat, you get involved in this petty bickering. You think this is really about Republican vs. Democrats? Liberals vs. Conservatives?

This is about getting people to argue over the most trivial topics, in order to control them. It's been stated many times that the best way to control large masses of people, is to keep them ignorant and fighting amongst themselves. You are continuing this cycle Big Dog. Hopefully one day you'll understand.

rezzy

You should know....you got tea bagged. Bahhh haa ha

starryeyes83

SR

Stop printing this crap the trial is over...I suggest you concentrate on other things in your own area.

I'm really starting to rethink my subscription come renewal time.

goofus

I'd be a snowbird, Put-In-Bay in summer florida in winter!!!!!

shucks

goofus-
Why do you comment in Sandusky when you live in Florida?

sandtown born a...

First amendment right, and because he can

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