Rev. Al Sharpton addressed a rally of 8,000 people who had gathered to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin on Thursday night, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Demonstrators came by buses and cars from Atlanta and all around Florida, wearing hoodies and carrying bags of Skittles, in solidarity with the unarmed 17-year-old black teenager who was shot on Feb. 26 by a neighborhood watch volunteer who thought he looked suspicious.
The protesters gathered at Fort Mellon Park in Sanford, the Florida town where the shooting took place, and listened to Sharpton, an outspoken civil-rights activist. Sharpton, just that morning, had received word that his 87-year-old mother, Ada Sharpton, who was suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia, had passed away, according to the Associated Press.
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Speaking at the rally, Sharpton said he had paused, wondering if he should cancel his trip. But then he said, "My mother raised me to stand up for justice. My mother would have been ashamed of me, if I wasn't here tonight. My mother raised me to stand with mothers and daddies like that, and in her name, I'm going to fight until Zimmerman meets justice in the court room."
The Los Angeles Times noted that Sharpton has been one of the loudest voices in the call for justice on behalf of Martin and his grieving parents. Before the rally, Sharpton said, "We wanted to come out and say we did not come here for a temporary leave of absence, we came for permanent justice."
The details of the case have been revealed the past few weeks, as 911 tapes of the incident emerged. Martin was walking back from a trip to the convenience store with a bag filled with iced tea and Skittles, when George Zimmerman followed him and called the police. The police advised Zimmerman to stop following Martin, but he continued, and a struggle ensued, and the 911 phone call recordings reportedly contain the sound of the gunshot that killed Martin. Zimmerman said he was acting in self-defense and was not arrested.
Since the case has been thrown into the headlines, the Department of Justice and the FBI have launched investigations into the handling of it and Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee temporarily stepped aside over his handling of the case, stating that his involvement was proving to be a distraction to the investigation, according to The LA Times.
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At the rally, one of several held across the country, including the 'Million hoodie march' in New York City, Sharpton said "Trayvon represents a reckless disregard for our lives." He told the enthusiastic crowd, "Enough is enough. Zimmerman should have been arrested that night. You cannot defend yourself against a pack of Skittles and iced tea," according to The Chicago Tribune.
Sharpton continued, "We cannot allow a precedent when a man can just kill one of us ... and then walk out with the murder weapon," with Martin's parents on his side, according the ABC News.
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Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother, tearfully said, "I stand before you today not knowing how I'm walking right now because my heart hurts for my son. Trayvon is my son. Trayvon is your son. Thanks so much for your support," according to The Chicago Tribune.
ABC News reported that another rally is planned for Chicago, where organizers are urging the demonstrators to wear hoodies, like the one worn by Martin when he was shot.
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Here is a clip from Sharpton's speech at the rally, courtesy of MSNBC:
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