SANFORD — The national president and chief executive of the NAACP called for justice in the fatal Trayvon Martin shooting and the ouster of the Sanford police chief as he spoke tonight to about 400 cheering supporters at a Sanford church.
"I am here tonight because Sanford has a problem," Ben Jealous told the crowd at Allen Chapel AME Church. "One time is too many times."
Jealous called for the removal of police Chief Bill Lee, whose department Jealous said has mishandled the case by not arresting the shooter, crime-watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
"We will stand our ground as our ancestors did," Jealous said. "We will stand up as we have before and we will ensure that justice is carried out here in Sanford. We will ensure that all of our sons and daughters wake up and feel safe in Sanford. We will ensure that there is a new chief in Sanford."
One speaker urged Sanford residents to boycott the Police Department if Zimmerman is not arrested by Monday. He advised them to insist that dispatchers send deputies from the Seminole County Sheriff's Officeto handle Sanford calls.
"We will not stop until he [Lee] is fired," the man said.
Lee did not attend the meeting. A Police Department spokesman, Sgt. David Morgenstern, told the Orlando Sentinel the agency stands by its investigation.
So many people showed up that hundreds were forced to stand outside, some holding signs that said "Justice for Trayvon" and chanting "No justice, no peace."
Inside, speakers exhorted the crowd to bombard the Brevard-Seminole State Attorney's Office with calls and email demanding that Zimmerman be prosecuted. State Attorney Norm Wolfinger and Gov. Rick Scott have asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to intervene.
After calls from U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, among others, theU.S. Department of Justice late Monday said it, too, would look into the case. A grand jury is scheduled to review it April 10.
At Tuesday's meeting, several people shared stories in which they said police had unfairly targeted them or their relatives because they are black. Trayvon was black. Zimmerman identifies as Hispanic, his father said.
Kevin Myles, NAACP southeast regional field director, told attendees they need to say "no more" to racism. The crowd then chanted, "No more, no more, no more." At times, the gathering had the feel of a church service, with people calling a hearty "that's right" when they approved of speakers' views.
"As glad as I am to be here joining you today, we have got to stop meeting like this," Myles said. "All too often we find ourselves facing these sensless acts of violence, and more often than not they are not met with swift calls for justice."
TheRev. Al Sharpton— who will be in Sanford for a rally for Trayvon Thursday night — has vowed to continue to shine a national light on the case.
Trayvon was shot to death Feb. 26 at The Retreat at Twin Lakes, a gated town-house community. Zimmerman told police he acted in self-defense. He has not been arrested, evoking a national outcry and the creation of online petitions that hundreds of thousands of people have signed demanding Zimmerman's arrest.
"We want to make it clear that there will be sustained national presence, and we will not stop until this young man [ Zimmerman] is arrested and there is a federal investigation into why he wasn't arrested," Sharpton told the Orlando Sentinel today.
Trayvon, who was not armed, was walking back to his father's fiancee's town house from a 7-Eleven where he bought a can of ice tea and a bag of Skittles candy.
Zimmerman called the Police Department's nonemergency line to report a suspicious person — Trayvon. Afterward, the two got into a fight and Zimmerman shot Trayvon once, investigators said.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times