Feds send 'peacemaker' team to Sanford to address race relations - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Feds send 'peacemaker' team to Sanford to address race relations

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SANFORD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

With race relation issues in Sanford, there's been a secret peacemaker visiting the city.  For the first time, the a Sanford project manager is speaking out about it.

When George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin back in February, it sparked plenty of protests, exposing a problem with race relations in the City of Sanford.

"They're not going to go away, so it's not time to be the ostrich in the sand," says Sanford Senior Project Manager Andrew Thomas. 

Among all the commotion, there were peacemakers in the crowd, and at least one continues to keep coming back.  Thomas says representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations team have been visiting at least once a month to improve race relations, while keeping a low profile.

"They're facilitators and mediators and that is not something that they do in the broad open," Thomas says.

We tried contacting the Department of Justice, but no one would grant us an interview. However, they did provide expense reports, which show that they have spent thousands of dollars in Sanford on food and lodging over the last 9 months.

"In order to get people to talk, there has to be some degree of confidentiality. They have to have some degree of anonymity with people if they're gonna come forward and talk."

Thomas says SE Regional Director Tom Battles meets with neighborhood leaders, pastors as well as other people in the community. "They'll walk the streets, knock on doors and talk to people."

Some of the discussions can get emotional. "They've said lets peel back the onion skin, look at it and deal with it. And for some people that's hard for them to deal with that."

But they continue to try and move forward, not backwards. "They've brought a number of people to the table, they begin to clarify the issues."

While he tells us, relations are improving, he says, "We still have a lot of work a head of us.
That's the race relations, that's the rebuilding the community, that's the establish trust."

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