Police chief urges community to be "vocal not violent" at tonight's rally for Trayvon Martin

The bill for tonight's protest.
The bill for tonight's protest.

In the wake of Saturday's "not guilty" verdict for George Zimmerman, who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012, cities across the country erupted in protest.

In New York, thousands staged a sit-in in Times Square; some were pepper sprayed and arrested. In L.A., protestors spilled over onto a major interstate, and police prodded them off with rubber bullets, reports the L.A. Times.

Tonight, the rallies will reach Minneapolis. Starting at 6 p.m., protestors are expected to meet at the Hennepin County Government Center Plaza and then march through downtown. The rally will not only be to express solidarity with Martin's side, but also with Terrance Franklin, the local 22-year-old who died in a police shoot-out in May amid circumstances that are still emerging.

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In anticipation of the rally, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau released a statement earlier today urging protestors to be "vocal not violent."

"Peaceful protest is a cornerstone of our democracy," Harteau said. "I assure you the women and men of the Minneapolis Police Department will protect the rights of all citizens."

"I also recognize that emotions are high, so I urge our community to be vocal not violent," Harteau continued. "We have seen far too much violence in our city."

Anthony Newby, executive director or Neighborhoods Organizing for Chance (NOC), which organized the rally, says that when it comes to violence at tonight's event, he's more worried about the police than the protestors.

"We have more concerns about police, judging by the reaction in other cities, than we do about folks in our own network," he says, while noting that he expects protestors, as always, to be disciplined and peaceful. "So we're hopeful and optimistic that police have learned lessons from other cities."

Along with NOC, rally organizers include the Justice 4 Terrance Franklin Committee, Save the Kids, Idle No More, and Occupy Homes MN. Brother Ali has been speaking about the event, and Toki Wright is organizing the music.

Organizers decided to stage the protest at a NOC meeting on Sunday, and within 24 hours, more than 2,500 people had signed on to the Facebook event.

"We spent hours and hours and hours thinking about how could we respond to the outcome of the Zimmerman trial in a positive way, despite how we were feeling," explains organizer Brittany Lynch, adding that her frustrations extend to Minneapolis's own gun violence. "We decided that solidarity is key at a moment like this."

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