MIAMI
07/03/2013 11:06 am ET Updated Jul 03, 2013

George Zimmerman Trial: Miami Leaders Promote Peaceful Protest To Avoid Riot (VIDEO)

After an all-white jury acquitted a Miami cop in the death of Arthur McDuffie in 1980, the city exploded in a burning, three-mile-wide riot that lasted three days, caused $100 million in damage, resulted in 18 deaths, and inspired curfews and gunpoint checks by the National Guard.

In the coming weeks, a mostly white jury will decide whether to acquit George Zimmerman of second degree murder charges in the controversial shooting death of Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin.

Local police and community leaders are already cautioning against any actions that could escalate to violence or destruction, even turning to social media and Miami Heat stars for help.

Tuesday Miami-Dade’s Community Relations Board met with police and a Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Committee to go over the trial's timeline and talk designated protest areas.

"We want people to respond in a positive way. If they have frustrations they want to vent, we want them to do that in an orderly and organized way. So the message is: Peace for Trayvon," board member Dr. Walter T. Richardson told CBS Miami.

Such plans did not hold in the wake of the McDuffie verdict.

The 1980 riots escalated after a peaceful protest in downtown Miami where one protester is captured in a documentary yelling, "I wanted to believe in the American system. But no more! Never again!"

So the Community Relations Board, which was formed to ease racial tensions during the Civil Rights era, is seeking help from its youngest members to get a message of peace out on social media with the campaign #keepcalmfortrayvon.

Board members are even reaching out to Miami Heat players, asking that they lead a unity walk through Miami's inner city after the verdict is announced, reports the Miami Herald.

They're also planning a town hall meeting at the North Dade Regional Library next Tuesday to "appeal for calm," according to CBS Miami.

Ed Shohat, a defense attorney and Community Relations board member, told WLRN that they also have to be prepared for any "victory riots" if a guilty verdict is handed down.

The trouble makers will most likely be adults, not the young people, and then the students will get blamed for it. We want to appeal to everyone’s sense of calm ahead of time so this doesn’t happen,” said Judo Bruno of the Miami-Dade Youth Commission told CBS Miami.

Students have already acted out their frustation with the way Martin's death was handled.

In March, hundreds of students staged a walk out at Carol City High in support of their slain former classmate, chanting "No justice. No peace and justice for Trayvon.”

Before Zimmerman was charged, dozens of North Miami Beach students allegedly ransacked a Walgreens in protest, one telling Local 10, "I was just angry. I don't know what the rest of them were doing. I was just trying to make a point for Trayvon. That's it."

Click below for images from the 1980 McDuffie Riots:

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McDuffie Riots, 1980
PHOTO GALLERY
McDuffie Riots, 1980

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