Zimmerman verdict hits close to home for East Knoxville church

Zimmerman verdict hits close to home for East Knoxville church

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"It's beginning to wake up our city. We've gotta do something. We can't keep ignoring what's happening," said Pastor Daryl Arnold. "It's beginning to wake up our city. We've gotta do something. We can't keep ignoring what's happening," said Pastor Daryl Arnold.
"It's very important to try to figure out something to do to change things," said church members Christina Hess of Knoxville. "It's very important to try to figure out something to do to change things," said church members Christina Hess of Knoxville.

By HAYLEY HARMON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin is being met with strong reaction all across the country, including right here in East Tennessee.

The verdict is hitting especially close to home for one church in East Knoxville.

Trayvon Martin's parents spoke at Overcoming Believers Church back in March as part of a forum discussing ways to curb street violence amongst teens.

The forum drew hundreds, who listened as the couple spoke out about bringing an end to the issue that the East Knoxville community is all too familiar with.

"They try to use what had happened to them and turn it so that we can stop young people from dying," said Pastor Daryl Arnold of Overcoming Believers Church. "It is evident even through the Trayvon Martin trial that it's happening all over the country."

Arnold says street violence leaves many local teenagers dead every year.

He just performed the funeral Saturday of an 18-year-old boy killed on the streets of East Knoxville.

Arnold says hearing the verdict has brought up renewed sadness over Martin's loss, whose parents became like family to this church during their visit.

"I text Tracy Martin last night after the verdict and said I don't know what to say to you. Just know that I'm praying for you and Knoxville is praying for you," said Arnold.

He says it has also done something else.

It's serving as a wake-up call to work even harder to stop the violence here at home.

"We have to do something about the death of our sons and daughters," said Arnold.

The church hosted another forum, entitled "Stop the Violence," the first week of July, discussing ways to combat the violence that's been plaguing this community.

"It's beginning to wake up our city. We've gotta do something. We can't keep ignoring what's happening," said Arnold.

They hope to host another forum in the coming weeks.

"If you feel like you have the answer, or an answer, then call. Let's get together. Let's continue to work it out," said Arnold.

Members of this church don't want to see any more teens lose their lives.

"It's very important to try to figure out something to do to change things," said church members Christina Hess of Knoxville. "You just hope that pretty soon we'll be able to do something that could possibly steer kids in a different direction."

At the Stop the Violence forum, members of the church suggested creating a mentoring program for teens in their community and also more positive activities for teenagers to participate in.

Church leaders have been working with the Knoxville City Councilman Daniel Brown on these ideas and say they're close to creating programs that implement them.

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