Thousands rally from Ga. to Fla. over shooting of Trayvon Martin

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ATLANTA - Thousands of people from all over the country were in Sanford, Fla., Thursday night to rally over the shooting of an unarmed teenager by a neighborhood watch captain.

Channel 2's Craig Lucie was there as more than 100 Atlanta residents attended the rally, which included the Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III and other civil rights leaders speaking out against the shooting of Trayvon Martin, 17, by George Zimmerman on Feb. 26.

"Trayvon could have been any one of our sons. Trayvon could have been any one of us," Sharpton said the crowd. "Trayvon represents a reckless disregard for our lives that we've seen too long. And we come to tell you tonight, enough is enough. Twenty-six days ago, this young man, Trayvon Martin, did nothing criminal, did nothing unethical. He went to the store for his brother. He came back and lost his life."

Earlier in the day, Sharpton was among several activists that called for Zimmerman to be arrested. Zimmerman has not been charged, and has said he shot Martin in self-defense.

Sharpton told the crowd that he wants to see Zimmerman in court with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Thursday, Sanford police Chief Bill Lee announced he was temporarily leaving his job to let passions cool over the case.

"I do this in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to a city which has been in turmoil for several weeks," Lee said.

Lee's decision came less than a day after city commissioners gave him a vote of no confidence, and after a couple of weeks of protests and uproar on social media websites.

The rally was initially planned for a 400-seat church. But Thursday evening's two-hour rally for Martin was moved to Fort Mellon Park in downtown Sanford to make room for all the people expected to attend.

Hundreds of people from the Atlanta area joined the Florida rally. They left early Thursday morning to join the hundreds from across the county.

Corliss Burnett said Martin's death struck her to the core because the circumstances were so ordinary.

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"It just really puts in your face that it happened to this child, so it could happen to your child," she said.

"It's something we blacks have always lived with. Our children always have to be on guard," said Burnett, of Lithonia. She said she first taught her son about these issues when he was a boy. He is 38 now "and he still goes by the rules."

Thursday night, Channel 2's Tony Thomas was there as hundreds of people from the Atlanta area gathered to have their own rally to honor Martin.



A host of speakers at the Southwest Atlanta rally criticized not only Martin's killing but also the police's handling of his death, Organizers urged supporters to call the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division about the case and to sign a petition on change.org demanding prosecution of Zimmerman.

Many of the participants said they fear a similar fate could easily happen to their children.

"Something seriously needs to be done. We can only take so much pain before we give it out," event organizer Marcus Coleman told the crowd in front of the Providence Missionary Baptist Church.

Anger and sorrow mixed together at the hour-and-a-half rally.

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"All of us are just like Trayvon," Brian Watkins, 16, told the crowd.

Coleman called the man who killed the teenager "a punk, coward murderer."

One of the many people at the rally who don't believe Zimmerman, the man accused of shooting Martin, is Saunya Jones. She is a Douglasville mother of an 18-year-old boy named Trayvon, as well.

"He's from a nice neighborhood and wears hoodies. It's not a black or white issue; it's a people issue. It's a justice issue," Jones said.

Many speakers at the Atlanta rally did link the Martin case to racism. They also tied the incident into local cases where law enforcement officers have shot young, black men.

"Racism is alive and well in America, and we have to fight this," said Tom Gagne of the International Socialist Organization from the podium.

Vedo McCoy stood in the crowd wearing a T-shirt with the words "I am Trayvon" on the front and "Am I next" written on the back.

He calls it his statement, and he asked, "Am I next? Am I next to be killed for no reason?"

That is a question the people gathered Thursday night said they worry about and won't let rest.