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Memorial's removal in Sanford sets off new tension months after Trayvon Martin shooting

Roberto Gonzalez / Getty Images file

Raphael Cuevas, left, and Jashua Castro stop on March 20 at a memorial to Trayvon Martin outside The Retreat at Twin Lakes community where Martin was shot by George Zimmerman.

SANFORD, Fla. -- A battle is quietly brewing here over the possibility of a new, permanent memorial to Trayvon Martin.

Last week, city officials took down curbside memorial items that had been sitting for months outside the Retreat at Twin Lakes subdivision, where 17-year-old Martin was shot by George Zimmerman the night of Feb. 26.

The removal of the memorial angered some advocates for Martin's family, and apparently sparked discussion about remedies, including a permanent memorial.

While it's unclear where things stand – city officials say discussions about a permanent memorial are only beginning – opponents are already girding for a fight.

A group called the United Sanford Alliance has created a petition opposing a permanent memorial.  Frank Taaffe, a friend and neighbor of Zimmerman, said by phone Sunday he plans to go to residents in the subdivision to ask for signatures.

Trayvon Martin family upset over moving of curbside memorial

"It's extremely unpalatable to the majority of residents," Taaffe said of a new memorial, adding, "it's disdainful because we don't know yet who the victim was and who the aggressor was."

Several city officials, including a spokesperson for Sanford City Hall, said Sunday that a permanent memorial is in discussion phase only.

More NBCNews.com coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting death 

City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. met last week with the citizens group responsible for the original memorial, the Concerned Citizens of Sanford.  

Officials say nothing regarding a new memorial was decided.

Reached by telephone, a member of the group, Francis Oliver, said a permanent memorial was one of several ideas discussed during the meeting.  Another idea, she said, was a less elaborate cross outside the subdivision.

Asked to respond to the petition opposing construction of a memorial, Oliver said Taaffe’s assertion that it’s not clear who the victim was on the night of February 26th is beside the point.

“We know who’s dead, don’t we?” Oliver said.

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“Memorials are for the dead, not the living,” she added. “This was a young life.”

Oliver’s group, Concerned Citizens of Sanford, said neither its members nor Martin's family approved the city's decision to remove the original memorial last Monday.

According to an FBI report investigating whether race was a factor in the shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, none of the dozens of people the FBI interviewed said shooter George Zimmerman is a racist. NBC's Kerry Sanders reports.

But in a news release, the city said it reached its decision to remove the memorial "after communicating with representatives of Trayvon Martin’s family."

Late last week, a new makeshift memorial -- a wreath and a photograph of Martin with the message "Justice for Trayvon" superimposed on it -- went up outside the Retreat at Twin Lakes Subdivision.

A spokesperson for the Concerned Citizens of Sanford told the NBC News website The Grio that the group did not put it up.

The original memorial items, a cross or two, flowers, and a message to remember his life, are being stored at the Sanford city museum.

Zimmerman, a Sanford neighborhood watch volunteer, is charged with second-degree murder in Martin’s death. He says he shot the unarmed black teen in self-defense after Martin punched him and knocked his head against the pavement. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty and is free on $1 million bond.

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