March 23: 7:55 am – Last night, we watched as thousands poured into Fort Mellon Park in Sanford. Rally participants sang along with the first speaker, Rev. Rucker of the First Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, pastor of the location where the rally was originally to be held.
But that modest if beautiful church and its grounds could never have held the seemingly everflowing stream of people who approached the huge expanse already teeming with protestors. The thickness of the groups walking to the rally, with measured paces and determined looks, made those approaching the demonstration look like they were engaging in an organized march themselves.
Many carried signs and wore t-shirts emblazoned with words of solidarity for Trayvon Martin. People white, black and brown wore t-shirts with the words “I am Trayvon Martin,” while some chanted the phrase.
One man we met as he was walking from his car was excited to see a news team, but then launched into an impromptu discussion of why he was there. In his passion to politically participate and make his voice heard, he told theGrio, “It’s not fair. It could have been my son. I tell my son, who likes to wear a hoodie, you can’t where a hoodie in certain places. But you should be able to walk anywhere in America, hoodie or not.”
Then he put on his hoodie in solidarity with Trayvon, who was killed while wearing that garment and carrying Skittles.
Read the full AP report of the Trayvon Martin rally here.
Stay tuned for theGrio’s exclusive video from the event.
6:45 pm – At a quarter of an hour before the rally starts, the large open expanse of park is full of people of all ages. The old and the young, children and parents, have unified here in support of the Martin family and their pursuit of the goal of an arrest for Zimmerman. Many, especially the younger people, have decorated their signs with Skittles and the wrappers of Arizona Iced Tea bottles. Black men (and women) carry signs and wear shirts that say “I Am Trayvon Martin” — and some go as far as to say it, roaming the crowd stating they identify with the Miami teen who was accidentally killed in Sanford on February 26. After a brief prayer, the preliminarily speakers have begun to take the stage.
5:45 pm – Rev. Al Sharpton arrived to a large roar of applause from the crowd. He was joined on stage by the parents of Trayvon Martin, Tracy Martin and Sabryna Fulton. Ben Jealous, the president of the NAACP was also present. The speaker introducing them demanded the arrest of George Zimmerman today, and called on the State’s Attorney to arrest him now.
“We came for justice! Arrest Zimmerman now!,” he yelled to the approval of the audience.
Rev. Sharpton spoke of losing his mother earlier today, and how that won’t stop him from seeking justice for Trayvon. “My mother raised me to fight for justice,” Sharpton said. “I am going to fight until Zimmerman meets justice in the courtroom.”
In response to the chief of Sanford police temporarily stepping down minutes ago, Sabryna Fulton said, “I thank God for being here, and I thank you for being here. It’s a temporary relief, but we need a permanent relief.”
A male speaker took the mike and spoke: “The Trayvon Martin movement for justice is not just in Sanford. It’s in New York City, it’s in Los Angeles, it’s in London! And it won’t stop until Zimmerman is arrested, charged, and convicted!”
Tracy Martin then thanked the crowd for coming, and reiterated that Zimmerman’s arrest is the one thing the family wants, making the police chief’s ouster inconsequential.
After these words of announcement Sharpton and the parents left the stage, with assurances that they would be back for the start of the rally at 7 pm.
4:40 pm TheGrio team just arrived at the rally location, a large park about the size of a football field that is almost a quarter full, with a growing crowd. About 400 people are present, while the rally begins at 7pm.
Approximately 14 news trucks are here and another dozen free-standing cameras with reporters ambling about waiting for the action to start. People are already chanting “no justice, no peace” and carrying “I am Trayvon Martin” signs. One enterprising gentleman is shouting that he has rally t-shirts for sale. A few people have brought their own chairs and set them up in the shade.
Yet, the weather is comfortably warm. A political organization has set up a tent and is projecting Martin Luther King speeches over a loud speaker as its members hand out literature. The throng is almost 100 percent African-American.
3:43 pm – SANFORD, Fla. (AP) – Florida police chief at center of neighborhood watch shooting is temporarily stepping down…
2:49 pm – theGrio will be live tweeting and live blogging the Rev. Al Sharpton led rally
in support of Trayvon Martin.
NBC NEWS: Students at Miami’s Carol City High School held a walk out Thursday afternoon to protest the Trayvon Martin shooting.
Hundreds of students were seen pouring into the streets outside the school at 3422 Northwest 187th Street in Miami Gardens around 12:30 p.m.
The protest brought traffic on nearby streets to a standstill as students marched down streets for several blocks.
1:35pm – Sanford police have released the complete history of George Zimmerman’s 911 calls to police. Zimmerman called police 46 times between January 2011 and February 26, 2012, when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin after calling the non-emergency line to report a suspicious person.
SANFORD – The location of the 7pm rally being held tonight in Sanford, Florida in support of Trayvon Martin has been moved. Rev. Al Sharpton will be leading the event, which will call for the arrest of George Zimmerman, 28, for killing 17-year-old Martin on February 26 in Sanford.
The rally will now be held at Fort Mellon Park in Sanford, near City Hall. The rally was moved from the First Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford due to an overwhelming response, according to a tweet sent by Rev. Al Sharpton.
When the Rev. Harry D. Rucker, pastor of First Shiloh, was initially asked to host the rally, the event was to be held inside the 300-person sanctuary. As interest in the rally grew, the staging was moved outside the church, he told theGrio earlier today. Now the expected turnout is so large, Fort Mellon Park has been selected to host the expected crowd.
Participants in tonight’s rally are calling for Zimmerman’s arrest because he was not charged for killing Martin, due to his claim of self defense. The fact that the teen was unarmed, coupled with the failure of the police to follow standard procedures following Martin’s death, has transformed this incident into a national controversy. Many believe Sanford police failed to charge Zimmerman or investigate Martin’s death thoroughly due to racially-motivated bias.
Al Sharpton is the host of Politics Nation with Al Sharpton, which airs on MSNBC, a subset of NBC News. TheGrio is part of NBC News, which is owned by NBC Universal.