York NAACP leader Sandra Thompson has noticed an increasing level of vitriol in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict.
So the president of the local chapter of the NAACP has joined efforts with the Black Ministers' Association to host a community forum next week.
The forum will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Crispus Attucks, 605 S. Duke St. in York City.
At the forum, guests will have a chance to share and hear the frustrations that have swelled since Zimmerman was found not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin, Thompson said.
"If you look at the news and hear all the comments, you continue to see hatred, intolerance and misunderstanding. The forum gives the community a place to talk out their feelings," she said.
The reactions began last week after Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was acquitted of in the death of Martin, an unarmed, black 17-year-old.
On Feb. 26, 2012, Zimmerman followed Martin as he walked to the home of his father's girlfriend. Words were exchanged and, after a struggle, Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest and claimed self defense in accordance with Florida's stand your ground laws.
"We want to make sure the same type of thing does not occur in our own community," Thompson said.
Many who disagree with the verdict believe Martin was racially profiled by Zimmerman, she said.
Vigils have been planned across the country and in York, and the reaction to those events has been intense, Thompson said.
Local residents have argued about the case through Facebook comments and media websites, and she said she's concerned.
"Thankfully, we haven't seen or heard any threats made, but we want to make sure it doesn't rise to that. We're trying to be proactive in our community," Thompson said.
She added, "When people become frustrated and feel hopeless, that can escalate to violence. We want to let them know there is hope, there is justice."
The NAACP is fighting against all stand your ground laws and racial profiling, Thompson said.
Guests of the forum will learn more about the organization's efforts and will be given advice about how to have their voices heard.
"This isn't just about venting frustration. It's about taking action. We will let them know what the NAACP is doing, who to contact in local and state government, and how to deal with police or other persons if they feel racially profiled," she said.
- Candy Woodall can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.