Zimmerman Trial Inspires Worst Police PSA Ever: “Don’t Act Up”

July 12, 2013 | Marie Calloway

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has released a 37 second PSA called “Raise Your Voice, Not Your Hands.” According to South Florida Review, it was created over fears that riots or forms of violent protest will erupt when the jury reaches a verdict on the Zimmerman case and the slaying of black teenager Trayvon Martin. To quote a YouTube response,

You have to be JOKING. This is actually RACIST; suggesting that a silly-ass Hip-Hop video style PSA is the only way to communicate the message to the black community of Sanford…

It is also presumptuous and even paternalistic.

The PSA begins with two teenagers urging their audience to protest peacefully. At one point, the male black teen at is shouting,”Let’s give violence a rest because we could easily end up arrest-ed.” Then, as if on cue, four armed and uniformed police officers walk onto the screen and stand behind the teen as he says, “Let’s choose not to act up!”.

Phrasing protest against injustice in terms of “acting up” is stunningly infantilizing. “Act up” or get arrested? What about the injustice? The female teen advises, “Let it roll off your shoulders. It’s water off your back. Don’t lack composure because in one instance it could be over.” Don’t treat the outcome of a trial dealing with the likely racially-motivated murder of a young boy as anything but “water off your back?” Or you could be arrested by the police or worse?

It’s hard to see how this skewed, condescending PSA could prevent protests or presumed riots. If this it accomplishes anything, it gives us insight as to why protests actually occur.