RACINE — In the wake of the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case in Florida, many Racine residents were left with their own questions and concerns about the issues surrounding the case.
A group of residents gathered Tuesday at the Second Missionary Baptist Church, 1250 Lathrop Ave., for a town-hall meeting designed to answer some of those questions and concerns. It also served as a forum for a broader discussion about race in the Racine community.
Joining the group of more than 30 people gathered for the discussion was former state Rep. Robert Turner, D-Racine. Turner spoke to the group about certain laws that stood as a backdrop in the Zimmerman case.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was charged with second-degree murder after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Fla., after a confrontation. On July 13, he was acquitted by a Florida jury.
Zimmerman’s attorneys did not invoke Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in the trial, but it stood as a backdrop to the shooting and has again come under scrutiny after the verdict.
“We have what’s called the Castle Law in Wisconsin which allows you to have arms to protect your property and your car,” Turner said to the group Tuesday. “We don’t have a Stand Your Ground law, but I can say one thing — I can see it coming real soon unless we put a stop to it.”
Turner said he supported he supported Wisconsin’s Castle Doctrine but does not feel the same about Stand Your Ground, and encouraged those in the crowd who agreed with him to let their representatives know and vote for those who share their beliefs.
After Turner spoke to the group, members of the audience took turns sharing their thoughts. Few spoke directly about the shooting death of Martin, instead using it as a springboard for a broader discussion about race locally.
The Rev. J. Mark Freeman directed the night’s discussion and helped organize the crowd’s concerns toward the end of the meeting into three topics: education, the criminal justice system and employment.
“We first organize and then we can mobilize after we’ve been galvanized,” Freeman said.
Freeman divided the crowd gathered in his church’s basement into three groups so that they could go out and work on concrete ideas to address those issues and gather again in two weeks to move forward with their discussion.