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KC mayor, police chief urge citizens to remain civil following Zimmerman verdict

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – George Zimmerman’s murder trial in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has sparked race-fueled debate across the country. On Friday, the jury began its deliberations. The conclusion of the State of Florida vs. Zimmerman comes with some consternation from city leaders, specifically from Kansas City, Missouri Police Chief Darryl Forte on Thursday.

Chief Forte published a lengthy blog entry reminding citizens that regardless of the trial outcome they are to remain civil and that violence will not be tolerated.

The blog reads in part:

“The U.S. Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to voice their opinion and peaceably assemble, and we will support everyone’s right to do so. But disagreement with any verdict in the judicial process does not give anyone the right to ignore the law and compromise the safe of other or harm their property.”

Martin’s death in February of 2012 struck a chord with Kansas Citians. There were numerous vigils and town hall meetings in the immediate months after the incident. Forte said that Kansas City is largely full of good, law-abiding people and expects them to act responsibly.

On Friday, Kansas City Mayor Sly James released a statement that encouraged a larger conversation on gun violence in a city that has already seen 47 shooting deaths this year.

James' statement in its entirety read:

"Whether a verdict is returned in the Trayvon Martin case today, next week, or next month, I urge Kansas Citians to put the community above the controversy.  I believe that the common vision we have for the future of our city, regardless of age, gender, race, religion or geography, should do more to bring us together than to drive us apart.  We always have room for rational debate and I do expect everyone, regardless of their opinions related to this case, to remain calm.  This case has ignited strong feelings in many communities across the country, but there is a big difference between freedom of expression and expressing feelings through violence.

We have worked diligently over the past couple of years to elevate our city on the national and international stage.  I think we should not let the actions of a few negate the collective, strategic efforts of many to move this city forward.

Yesterday, Chief Forte eloquently urged civil responsibility in response to this verdict and as a strategy to reduce violence in our community. I couldn’t agree more. Slow motion mass murder occurs too often here right here in Kansas City, you just don’t see the details of the incidents on a headline news ticker. This case is a high-profile example of why we need to continue working towards a community solution to gun violence.”

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