Tampa Rally for Trayvon Martin's Family
TAMPA - An East Tampa Church was overflowing Tuesday night as community members came out in support of the family of slain teenager Trayvon Martin. Nearly a thousand people packed the pews at the 34th Street Church of God, standing and swaying to the orators who evoked the plight of Martin as a return to the early days of the civil rights movement.
"Trayvon was doing nothing wrong, but using his Constitutional rights and that was walking the streets of these United States," said Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick. He says the Martin case reminded him of unsolved lynchings he remembers from his youth.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have gone back 50 years. Fifty years when I was a young man and many of you were standing up and marching and sitting in with peaceful nonviolence to try to get our civil rights. And that's all we're asking for Trayvon is his civil rights."
Many people in the crowd held up large pictures of Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie - the same outfit he was in when he was killed by George Zimmerman in a Sanford gated community. They then shouted what it said under the words "Never Forget" - No justice! No peace!
"And so we say to Trayvon Martin, we are with you, we are with your family, through rain, thunder or hail," said activist Otis Anthony, "we will not rest until Zimmerman is in jail."
A police report was leaked to the press that shows a witness backing Zimmerman's statement that he shot Martin after getting into a fight with the teen. This is what Zimmerman's friend Joe Oliver told reporters:
"If I didn't know George Zimmerman, I'd be right out there too," said Oliver. "But I do know George. And I do know the portrayal that young black men have had. I've experienced that growing up. I get that - I understand that. But in this one-spark incident, that wasn't the case. Race had nothing to do with it."
Sanford police say they didn't charge Zimmerman because they believe he acted on Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which allows people to use lethal force without first backing off if they feel threatened.
That law now faces a public backlash from people like Carolyn Collins, president of the Hillsborough County NAACP.
"We're going to stand our ground here in the state of Florida to help reverse a law that some may feel is Ok," said Collins. " I say to you guys it is justice for Trayvon, and since it happened in Florida, let's let Florida get together, let's make changes, let's get justice, and let's stand our ground."
The speakers then exhorted the crowd to contact elected officials - everyone from Governor Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder