CNN anchor Don Lemon rebuked the Sanford Police Department for warning the Florida community not to riot after the verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial, saying it struck him as “those barbarians can’t contain themselves.”
“Let me say this, no one should ever be violent about anything, especially in this particular case,” Lemon said on CNN Friday. “I want to say this as judiciously as possible, and I’m not just saying this because I’m African-American, but to hear people come out before hand and talk about the possibility of violence and not rioting, it strikes me as, ‘those barbarians can’t contain themselves’ and it strikes many people as that well.”
Lemon said there wasn’t any such talk “surrounding the Jodi Arias verdict or the Casey Anthony verdict.”
“There is race involved [in this case], but to say beforehand, many people think that is sort of inciting violence, by telling people not to be riotous and not to come out. It is incumbent on police departments to protect and serve all the time, including in these particular situations.”
Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger and Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith went on national television Friday afternoon to appeal for calm after the verdict is read, no matter the outcome.
“There is no party involved in this case who wants to see any violence,” Eslinger said after the case was handed off to the jury. “We have every expectation upon the announcement of this verdict that our community and its visitors will continue to act peacefully. … We will not tolerate anyone who uses this verdict as an excuse to violate the law.”
Smith said law enforcement officials have spent months working on a plan to “ensure the safety of Sanford and our surrounding communities” following the verdict.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a trying time for all of us. We’re not sure what the verdict is going to bring out, but at the same time it’s a great opportunity for evolution within the Sanford community and to show how we as a community evolve to do better and be better,” he said. “To ensure that we have an opportunity to to speak our piece, peacefully; to come together, peacefully; and when you leave here, you leave her peacefully.”
In addition to local law enforcement, Rev. Jesse Jackson also appealed for a peaceful response to the decision.
“If Zimmerman is convicted there should not be inappropriate celebrations, because a young man lost his life, and if he is not convicted we should avoid violence because it will only lead to more tragedies,” Jackson said.