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SANFORD, FL - MARCH 22:  Protesters demonstrate at a rally for slain teenager Trayvon Martin on March 22, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Sanford Police Department Chief Bill Lee announced today he will temporarily step down following the killing of the black unarmed teenager by a white and Hispanic neighborhood watch captain. Sharpton organized today SANFORD, FL - MARCH 22: Protesters demonstrate at a rally for slain teenager Trayvon Martin on March 22, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Sanford Police Department Chief Bill Lee announced today he will temporarily step down following the killing of the black unarmed teenager by a white and Hispanic neighborhood watch captain. Sharpton organized today's rally. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)  

Trayvon Martin Foundation calls for non-violence in wake of Zimmerman ruling

Photo of Chuck Ross
Chuck Ross
Reporter

SANFORD, Fla. – “Trayvon Martin cannot rest in peace if there’s not peace in our streets,” a member of the Trayvon Martin Foundation’s board of directors told The Daily Caller in an interview Thursday.

Michael Skolnik — who is also the editor-in-chief of the social activist website Global Grind — has at times accompanied the Martin family in court throughout the George Zimmerman trial. He told TheDC that any non-peaceful response to a Zimmerman acquittal “would be a tragedy”.

Skolnik maintains that there is “absolutely no evidence” that Martin threw the first punch against Zimmerman, who he considers guilty of murder. But he told TheDC that he has been “actively mobilizing with civil rights leaders to promote peace” throughout the country, regardless of the trial’s outcome.

Partners in that effort include churches, non-profits, governors, mayors, and other “high-level officials” — all seeking to prevent a violent response to a Zimmerman acquittal, he said. Zimmerman faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the shooting death of Martin.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida is also encouraging calm in the wake of the verdict, and released a public-service announcement this week encouraging young people to “raise your voice, not your hands.” The Miami-Dade County’s Community Relations Board began preparations last month for a Zimmerman acquittal.

Martin was born and raised in the Miami area.

Skolnik said he tasked his staff at Global Grind with studying the conditions surrounding the L.A. riots, which occurred after four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of assault and use of excessive force after being filmed beating black motorist Rodney King.

Skolnik wanted to understand what caused those riots in which 53 people died. He has looked at the timing of the verdict as well as how the mayor and police responded after the verdict was rendered.

Skolnik told TheDC that “the environment today is quite different than 1992.” But he said that he’s afraid that “one incident with police could spark something.” He said that “one of his biggest fears” in that case would be a heavy-handed police response to peaceful protests.

Skolnik said that peaceful protests would be encouraged. “Those are Constitutional rights,” he said. He also said that if protests do turn violent, he and the Martin family would condemn them immediately.

Skolnik reiterated that he is not a spokesman for the Martin family, but that they reached out to him late last year to join the Trayvon Martin Foundation. According to the Foundation’s website, its mission is to assist families in situations similar to the Martins, to help amend “Stand Your Ground” laws, and to increase public awareness of profiling.

The prosecution has made the allegation that Zimmerman profiled Martin a central argument in their case. “A teenager is dead,” lead state attorney Bernie de la Rionda said in closing statements Thursday. “He is dead because another man made assumptions.”

The defense presents its closing arguments Friday morning. After another rebuttal closing statement by prosecutors, the jury is expected to begin deliberating.