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Thousands rally for slain black teen Trayvon Martin

Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III joined Martin's parents at the rally.

By Kyle HightowerThe Associated Press / March 23, 2012

Al Sharpton leads a rally for slain teen Trayvon Martin.

Octavian Cantilli/Reuters

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One sentiment was clear among the thousands who rallied Thursday night for action in last month's fatal shooting of an unarmed Florida teenager: justice.

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Civil rights leader Al Sharpton helped lead the charge, demanding the arrest of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's killing in Sanford.

"We cannot allow a precedent when a man can just kill one of us ... and then walk out with the murder weapon," Sharpton said, flanked by Martin's parents and a stage full of supporters. "We don't want good enough. We want George Zimmerman in court with handcuffs behind his back."

IN PICTURES: Trayvon Martin

The rally came the same day that bitterly criticized Police Chief Bill Lee stepped down temporarily, he said to help quell the rising passions surrounding the case. Hours later, Gov. Rick Scott announced that the county prosecutor also had recused himself from the case and that a state attorney from Jacksonville would take over the investigation.

Sharpton attended the rally just hours after the death of his mother. "This is where she would want me to be," he said.

He was joined by Martin's parents, Martin Luther King III and nationally syndicated radio host Michael Baisden whose encouragement to his Twitter followers helped escalate attention on the shooting.

Trayvon Martin lived in Miami and was in Sanford visiting family Feb. 26 when he went to a convenience store. He was walking back carrying a bag of Skittles candy and can of iced tea, the hood of his jacket pulled over his head because it was raining. He was approached by the 28-year-old Zimmerman, who told a police dispatcher he thought Martin looked suspicious. Zimmerman shot Martin following a chase and fight.

Zimmerman says he shot Martin in self-defense, and Sanford police officials say there is no evidence that contradicts that. Some neighbors in the gated community have praised Zimmerman for taking a stand against crime in the neighborhood that is 57 percent white and 30 percent black. Police say Zimmerman is white; his family says he's Hispanic.

Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, believe Zimmerman should have been arrested. They claim he was profiling their son and acted like a vigilante.

The rally was initially planned for a 400-seat church. But it was moved to downtown to make room for all the people who stood shoulder-to-shoulder in Fort Mellon Park, many holding signs with everything from "Justice For Trayvon" to "Chief is gone, Zimmerman is next."


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