There have been no race riots. Homes and shops are not on fire. Itis safe to arrive at Sanford-Orlando International Airport(officials say they have received calls from people asking if theyshould land at a different airport). People are not camped out -- other than a scattering of nationaland local television news live trucks outside the city hall in thecommunity north of Orlando. |
Those in the media daily await the latest tidbit to report on the state investigation into the Feb. 26 shooting death of 17-year-oldTrayvon Martin by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who claims he wasacting in self-defense under the state s Stand Your Ground law . It s the constant updates, leading to national and internationalfocus on the community, that have drawn as much concern and talk asthe investigation itself. We have had a few people call and say we re not coming downbecause there is too much turmoil , said Hatch Dickey, the ownerof McRobert s, who grew up in Sanford. Even on days there havebeen rallies there hasn t been any problem.
But we ll see how itgoes in a month or so. With a long-range view, Dickey admitted the sign was a compromise.They had considered a statement in support of Police Chief BillyLee, who has temporarily stepped down amid accusations that hisdepartment bungled the initial investigation. I grew up with him, went to high school with him, a lot of ourcustomers went to high school with him, he s got great supporters,but you have to stay on medium ground, Dickey said. Residents say when there have been protests in the residential partof the city or closer to the Seminole County Courthouse -- betweenthe brick-lined road that runs through the downtown and thesouthern shore of a tranquil Lake Monroe -- demonstrators have beenwell-behaved.
The protests have focused on the incident, not the city. Those attending the organized events swirling around theMartin-Zimmerman case arrive, march, make their case and havecalmly left without incident, residents and business owners say. Sanford-native Reggie Lawson, who owns a home improvement business,spent Monday afternoon fishing from shore into Lake Monroe. He said there haven t been any tensions in the marches that havebeen held, but said there is a concern that could change if thestate attorney and grand jury don t take any action againstZimmerman. Everything is cool, it s the media that is blowing everythingout of proportion, Lawson said.
One guy I know says he s beenlosing business, but that isn t true. There is not a whole lotgoing on in Sanford other than when they hold a rally. Everybodyjust wants justice. They re not looking to burn the town down. Lawson, who is black, said in the past decade the city has seen amarked improvement in race relations, spurred by church efforts tofind activities for the youth.
In 1997, Sanford officials formally apologized for theirpredecessors who prohibited Jackie Robinson and the Montreal Royalsfrom playing baseball in the city, where the Brooklyn Dodgers'minor league team trained 51 years earlier. Today, residents both white and black say they want the justicesystem to work for Martin s family. Then, most ask -- and thereseems to be no immediate answer -- when will life return to normal?.
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