With thousands of people gathered, and tens of thousands anticipated, at a rally Monday, the parents of Trayvon Martin made an emotional plea to the Sanford City Commission: fire the police chief, Bill Lee, and bring about the arrest of George Zimmerman.
Saying she wanted to “get through” her statement without tears, Sybrina Fulton spoke of Trayvon.
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“My heart is broken,” Fulton said, “That’s the first and foremost — that was my baby.”
“And I just want to appeal to you all…if you have children, and if something happens to your children, as a parent you want answers to your questions.”
Fulton fought back tears as she told the commission she wasn’t asking for anything more than any parent would.
“I know I cannot bring my baby back,” she said, “but I’m sure going to make changes so that does not happen to another family.”
While the meeting went on, thousands of people gathered in a nearby park, watching the packed commission meeting on a Jumbotron.
“God is in control,” Fulton said as she stepped away from the dais.
Fulton was one of several speakers at the special commission meeting, including Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congresswomen Corinne Brown, who represents the Sanford area, and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and National Urban League president Marc Morial, who earlier greeted a busload of protesters who made their way from Palm Beach for the rally.
When it was his turn at the podium, Tracy Martin called his son his “best friend,” and also spoke about Trayvon in deeply emotional terms.
“The greatest gift God can give to a man is a son,” Martin said.
“There’s no monetary gift you can give a woman for giving you a son. George Michael Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Benjamin Martin in cold blood. He took my son away from me.”
Martin said he and Trayvon’s supporters were there to deliver more than 2 million signatures on an online petition, created by the family, calling for Zimmerman’s arrest.
“For Sanford police to feel they were going to sweep another black minority death under the rug is an atrocity.”
“This family is hurt,” Martin said, “This family is torn. and the Sanford Police Department needs to be held accountable. George Michael Zimmerman needs to be arrested. He needs to be put on trial. He needs to be given a sentence by a jury of his peers. We’re not asking for an eye for an eye, we’re asking for justice.”
Martin echoed Rev. Sharpton, who denounced what he called attempts to smear Trayvon by releasing information that he had previously been suspended from his Miami school, and by leaks from Sanford police to the Orlando Sentinel suggesting Zimmerman was attacked from behind.
“We consider ourselves strong black parents,” Martin said, “and we take pride in our kids. And it tears me apart to sit here and listen to the slander they are giving to my son.”
The family’s attorney, Ben Crump, was more direct, accusing Sanford police of “taking reports that attempt to bolster Zimmerman.”
Crump said it is difficult for the family to trust city officials when the police chief, Bill Lee, has yet to resign or be forced out by the city manager (though he stepped aside temporarily last week) despite his department continuing to “attack” Trayvon’s character.
“Who was the officer who made the determination not to do a background check on the person who had just shot dead Trayvon Benjamin Martin, but determined to do a background check on a dead child?” Crump asked, directing his comments at the city manager.
“Who was the officer who made the determination to drug test Tracy and Sybrina’s baby but not Zimmerman? Who was the officer who let Zimmerman go home in the clothes he was wearing” when he shot Trayvon?
“Can you understand,” Crump asked rhetorically, “that none of this would have happened if (police) had treated George Zimmerman the way they would have treated Trayvon Martin?”
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