Boisterous crowd at Sharpton-led Sanford rally for Trayvon Martin

At the lakeside park, hundreds of rally-goers streamed in Thursday as the humid evening buzzed with electricity and anticipation.

Television news helicopters droned over a domino-line of satellite trucks. Spontaneously, pockets of people erupted into chants demanding justice for slain teenager Trayvon Martin.

The few police officers visible carried badges not of the Sanford Police Department but of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol. But the crowd, boisterous and spirited, didn’t need policing.

A familiar Miami face, the Rev. Richard Dunn, strolled up the rolling lawn just yards from Lake Monroe. He drove up to the Orlando suburb Thursday with several supporters.

“Its a blessing to see the multi-ethnic people here in support of good,” he said. “Let’s be clear: This is blatant murder. The color of the skin does nor matter. What is right is what matters.”

As the sky turned orange at Fort Mellon Park, just down the way from the historic brick-lined streets of downtown Sanford, the casual observer could cover his ears, look at the signs and quickly printed T-shirts, and know what brought Dunn here.

One sign, scrawled in marker: “Pray, protest, but get armed!” “Chief, you are a temporary joke!” read another, poking fun at Sanford Police Chief Brian Lee, who temporarily stepped down because of the outcry over his department’s handling of Trayvon’s shooting.

Dozens of T-shirts showed Trayvon’s photo next to that of Emmett Till, the black Alabama teen slain in 1955 after he flirted with a white girl.

Shirts and poster boards showed the black-and-white booking mugs of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, 28, the man who fatally shot Trayvon last month. He claimed self-defense, and has not been arrested.

“America’s Most Wanted”

“Arrest and indict this SOB now!”

“Fake Cop!”

Yolanda Upson, 47, an Orlando teacher, raised a sign that showed Zimmerman’s photo and the word “Murderer.”

“This is great news,” Upson said when she was told the local state attorney had stepped down from the case. “He wasn’t doing nothing. He wasn’t doing his job, and he needed to be knocked out and someone else put in.”

The case would now be overseen by a Jacksonville prosecutor, announced Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Trayvon’s family. Raucous applause, and then, finally, the most fiery orator of the night stepped onto a stage set up by city’s parks department.

By then, the crowd had swelled to well over 1,000.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, national activist and onetime presidential candidate, took the microphone with a heavy heart, flanked by Trayvon’s parents. At 2 a.m., Sharpton told the crowd, his sister called to tell him that their ailing mother had died. He traveled to Sanford anyway.

“My mother would have been ashamed if I hadn’t have shown up to fight for this man and woman,” Sharpton hollered as the whipped-up crowd hollered back.

Sharpton minced no words.

“We want permanent justice!” he shouted. “We want Zimmerman in court with his hands cuffed behind his back!”

Read more Political Currents stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category