Thousands expected in Sanford on 1-month anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death

SANFORD – Thousands of people are expected to converge on Sanford, Florida today to mark the 1-month anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s slaying.

The teen was shot to death on February 26th as he walked to the home of his father’s fiancee, after being followed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, 28. His death has sparked a national conversation about the profiling of young black men, and calls for Zimmerman’s arrest have spread both nation- and worldwide.

ONE MONTH LATER THOUSANDS GATHER IN SANFORD FOR TRAYVON
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The NAACP of West Palm Beach has planned a bus caravan to Sanford, where thousands are to attend a regularly scheduled city council meeting, at which Trayvon’s parents are expected to speak.

Meanwhile, a friend of Zimmerman’s, former TV reporter Joe Oliver, 53, has stepped forward to defend him, saying Zimmerman “couldn’t stop crying” for days after the shooting, and insisting that the gunman acted in self-defense.

That argument seems unlikely to persuade Martin’s family and their supporters, who are continuing to demand an arrest in the case, or even a federal prosecution for a hate crime.

More than 2 million people have signed a Martin family petition calling for Zimmerman’s arrest, and the case has attracted celebrity attention.

An attorney for the family, Ben Crump, told NBC’s Ron Allen in a telephone interview, “Its real simple; if George Zimmerman had done what a neighborhood watchman is supposed to do: watch; Trayvon Martin would be alive today,” adding that Zimmerman’s supporters are “blaming the victim.”

“Trayvon Martin does not have to identify himself to a stranger,” Crump said. “George Zimmerman never identified who he was to Trayvon. If he (Zimmerman) doesn’t get out of the car; if he doesn’t act as if he’s the police, none of this happens.”

Crump also walked back suggestions by his law partner, Darryl Parks, from an interview with the National Association of Black Journalists, that the family might file a civil suit, saying Martin’s parents are focused on the criminal probe, and that any civil action could take years to get to court.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed a task force to review the state’s Stand Your Ground law, and a state attorney is reviewing the case to determine whether Zimmerman acted unlawfully.

Several prominent people are expected to speak at today’s rally, including Rev. Al Sharpton (who is also an MSNBC contributor — theGrio and MSNBC are divisions of NBC News), Rev. Jesse Jackson, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, comedian Sinbad, National Urban League president Marc Morial, Howard Simon (president of the Florida ACLU), Jon Perri of change.org, Pastor Jamal Bryant of the Empowerment Movement, family attorney Ben Crump, and Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton.

Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport