By Michael Dean Benton
When the news of the verdict of innocent for George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin was announced, there was an explosion of concern and comments on social media about how the decision reflects ongoing problems in regards to racism in American culture. At the same time, there was a counter-narrative that included paranoid declarations of arming for the coming race riots and lauding the verdict as a symbol of the rightness of self-appointed community policing.
Clearly there was a lot of confusion about the actual trial and the impact of laws, like Stand Your Ground, on the jurors’ verdict. This is why it was so important that communities across the nation immediately responded by gathering together to hold vigils, to actively protest the verdict, and to convene town-hall meetings to discuss the trial and ongoing racism.
In Lexington, Bianca Spriggs led the organizing of a town-hall style forum at the Carnegie Center on July 16. In the two days leading up to the event, despite her calls for civility, arguments concerning the verdict began to flare on the Facebook event page. It was quite obvious that Spriggs was scrambling to develop a sense of communal dialogue in order to avoid pointless, dismissive arguments. This was most clearly demonstrated in her continuous revision of the rules of dialogue and the decision, at one point, to remove long, rambling dialogues that violated the spirit of the gathering.