George Zimmerman: Community meeting leads to 9-point proposal

By John W. Davis, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2012, 11:02 PM EDT

City and community leaders held a community meeting Thursday night to discuss the Trayvon Martin case.

Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte and Acting Police Chief Darren Scott attended the meeting, which took place at Second Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.

During the meeting, Sanford leaders rolled out a preliminary nine-point plan aimed to move the community forward. However, several community members felt the most important point was absent. Community members are still calling for the firing of Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, who has temporarily stepped down.

City Manager Norton Bonaparte defended his decision to not fire Lee.

“The reality of it is that I will be making a decision with Chief Lee regarding the facts, when I have the facts, I'll be in a position to make the decision not only about Chief Lee but about the Sanford Police Department,” Bonaparte explained.

Bonaparte continued that he will wait until he gets the facts from an ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice before making any decisions about Chief Lee's job status.

The meeting was scheduled earlier this month after “The Dream Defenders,” a group made up primarily of college students, demanded the meeting while protesting on the steps of the Sanford Police Department.

When the meeting was scheduled on April 9, the group had just completed a 40-mile march from Daytona Beach to Sanford over Easter weekend.

Meanwhile, Dream Defenders Coordinator Vanessa Baden is agreeing with some residents that if Chief Lee is not fired soon by city manager Bonaparte, that Bonaparte should be held responsible and lose his job.

“One person brought it to you and you ignored it, two people brought it to you and you ignored it. Now you have other people from other places coming into the church bringing it to you and you ignore it and at that point you get rid of the person who is ignoring it,” Baden said.

About 40 people attended the meeting, including Martin family Attorney Natalie Jackson. Jackson said she believes in the community meeting process.

“Dialogue is always good and I think that they community will be better. I know a lot of people are seeing the storm but there's going to be a rainbow at the end of this storm,” Jackson said.

Meanwhile, City Manager Bonaparte pledged to continue engaging the community to work on a long term solutions, so that “Trayvon Martin's death will not be in vain.”

Sanford Community Relations Coordinator Andrew Thomas presented the following nine-point plan to community members Thursday night:

  1. Request an investigation by the Department of Justice.
  2. Create a local Human Relations Commission
  3. Create a Director of Community Relations Staff Position.
  4. Create a Community Panel to take a critical look at the Sanford Police Department
  5. Create a working relationship with the Florida Commission on Human Relations
  6. Create an inter-faith alliance to take a look at issues of race and ethnicity in Sanford
  7. Create a youth anti-violence program
  8. Set a schedule for general community meetings to address Sanford problems at a neighborhood level
  9. Request that the Department of Justice Communications Department facilitate future meetings and engage in community building in Sanford