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Trayvon Martin Miami Protest: Thousands Gather, Demand George Zimmerman Arrest

Posted: 04/ 1/2012 4:13 pm Updated: 04/ 2/2012 12:00 am


By David Adams

MIAMI, April 1 (Reuters) - Thousands of protesters gathered in a downtown bayfront park on Sunday demanding the arrest of the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in central Florida a month ago.

Civil rights leaders were joined by Martin's parents who were making their first major public appearance in the family's home city since a news conference on the steps of the Baptist Church where the funeral for their son was held last month.

Sunday's protest came a day after one of the largest demonstrations yet in Sanford, the central Florida town where Martin was killed.

The crowd gathered in an amphitheater with a "Justice for Trayvon" poster behind the stage.

Protesters called for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Martin with a semiautomatic handgun. Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, was in his car about to drive to a store when he noticed Martin walking back to his father's fiancée's home after buying candy and iced tea on Oscar night, Feb. 26.

Zimmerman called 911 to report that Martin looked "suspicious" and followed him against the dispatcher's advice.

He later told police that he was walking back to his vehicle when Martin attacked him and that he fired his weapon in self defense after he was punched in the nose, knocked down and had his head slammed against a sidewalk.

Police refused to arrest Zimmerman citing Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows the use of lethal force outside the home when a reasonable threat is perceived.

The case has sparked a public outcry from celebrities, politicians, civil rights activists and ordinary citizens who believe Zimmerman had judged Martin to be suspicious simply on the color of his skin and should have been arrested for the shooting.

More than two million people have signed a petition on Change.Org to demand justice in the case. President Barack Obama weighed into the matter in personal terms, comparing Martin to a son he might have had and calling for "soul searching" over how the incident occurred.

A special state prosecutor is examining the case and could decide as soon as this week whether charges should be filed. Federal investigators are looking into charges of racial bias.

Martin was visiting Sanford while serving a 10-day suspension from Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in north Miami. His parents are divorced but both still live in Miami where his mother is a county housing agency employee and his father is a truck driver.

Martin's former classmates have held several smaller protests, including a school walkout by more than 1,000 students last month. Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, later urged students not to protest with walkouts, but to sign petitions, take part in organized rallies and pray.

Martin was reportedly a good student and was taking after-school classes in the hopes of becoming an aviation mechanic.

Betty Wright, a Grammy Award winning R&B artist and Miami native was scheduled to sing at Sunday's rally in support of the Martin family. "It is something where we need to stop and realize that this is like 2012 and it's unacceptable," she told NBC.

Wright, whose has an album due to be released on Wednesday, will be singing "Dry Well," a song written to honor her own 21-year-old son, Patrick Parker, who was fatally shot in 2005. His killer was also never arrested.

"And if I can lend a celebrity voice to it, because when my son died, the way I got through it was through the power of family and the power of prayer," Wright told NBC. "And I began to write it out, as I have always done the pain in my life." (Reporting By David Adams; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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  • Miami Rally To Honor Trayvon Martin

    MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Mohawk Gaz wears a picture of Trayvon Martin in his hair as he and other supporters gather for a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Tamarii Cummings and his mother Patricia Cummings, who are related to Trayvon Martin, pray along with other supporters as they gather during a rally in Trayvon's honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Clifford Combry holds his daughter, Harmony, on his shoulders as thousands gather for a rally demanding justice for Trayvon Martin in downtown Miami, Sunday, April 1, 2012. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Briona Jones and Sara Smith, right, comfort each other as thousands gathered in downtown Miami, Sunday, April 1, 2012, demanding justice for Trayvon Martin during a rally that featured national civil rights leaders. The rally comes a day after thousands marched through Sanford, the Florida town where Martin, 17, was shot and killed in February. Protesters say they will continue holding marches and rallies until an arrest is made. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Members of the audience hold signs of support as thousands gathered in downtown Miami, Sunday, April 1, 2012, demanding justice for Trayvon Martin during a rally that featured national civil rights leaders.The rally comes a day after thousands marched through Sanford, the Florida town where 17-year-old Martin was shot and killed in February. Protesters say they will continue holding marches and rallies until an arrest is made. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at a rally in honor of Trayvon Martin at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: The parents of Trayvon Martin, Tracy Martin (L) and Sybrina Fulton (2nd R) stand with the Rev. Al Sharpton (C) and Rev. Jesse Jackson (far R) as they all attend a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Singer, Chaka Khan (R), hugs Sybrina Fulton the mother of Trayvon Martin as they attend a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Florida Political Leaders Hold Rally To Honor Trayvon Martin In Miami

    MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: With Rev. Al Sharpton (in gray suit) urging people to donate money a worker holds out a bucket for people to put money into as they attend a rally in honor of Trayvon Martin at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Trayvon Martin supporters gather for a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Trayvon Martin supporters gather for a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Emma Dagust and her daughter, Arielle Dagust, holds a sign as they and other Trayvon Martin supporters gather for a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Trayvon Martin supporters gather for a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Susana Diaz holds a sign as she and other Trayvon Martin supporters gather for a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Jazmen Nelson and other Trayvon Martin supporters gather for a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Emma Dagust and her daughter, Arielle Dagust, as they and other Trayvon Martin supporters gather for a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Trayvon Martin supporters gather for a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Audrey Paul holds a sign as she and Trayvon Martin supporters gather for a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Trayvon Martin supporters gather for a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Rev. Al Sharpton (L) sits with the parents of Trayvon Martin, Tracy Martin (C) and Sybrina Fulton (R) as they all attend a rally in honor of Trayvon at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Singer, Chaka Khan, attends a rally in honor of Trayvon Martin at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: The parents of Trayvon Martin (L-R) Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton stand with the Rev. Jesse Jackson (C) as they all attend a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • '"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"-MLK'

  • 'Yvette Grier brought her boys with signs and hoodies to the rally for #trayvonmartin'

  • 'Ends with balloon release and Rep Frederica Wilson saying, "we love you Trayvon."'

  • Diana Moskovitz

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