A month after Trayvon Martin was shot dead, his family and hundreds of marchers want one thing: George Zimmerman arrested.
“He needs to be put on trial,” Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, told the City Council yesterday in Sanford, Florida. “He needs to be given a sentence by a jury of his peers.”
Martin, an unarmed, black 17-year-old from Miami Gardens who was out of school because of a drug-related suspension, was shot Feb. 26 in his father’s gated community by Zimmerman, whose mother is Hispanic and father is white. Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch member suspicious because of recent burglaries, has claimed self-defense and hasn’t been arrested. The situation has prompted rallies across the nation and, residents say, fractured this city of 54,000 about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Orlando.
Zimmerman, 28, remains in hiding because of death threats. Acting Sanford Police Chief Darren Scott urged patience for those who prefer a “quick and positive resolution in this tragic event.”
“We do have a system in place, a legal system,” he said at a press conference yesterday. “It may not be perfect, but it’s the only one we have.”
There was little patience in a crowd that spilled across four Sanford blocks. It numbered about 10,000, said Lisa Mosca, a spokeswoman for the city.
They chanted while marching nine blocks to the council meeting at the Sanford Civic Center:
“Who do we want? Zimmerman.”
“When do we want him? Now.”
Anjial Madyun of Orlando said in an interview as she marched that the case’s racial dimension has galvanized Florida and the nation.
“Black or white, parents teach their children to respect police,” said Madyun, 40. “But black people, black men especially, know they have to step farther away from police.
‘‘That’s something our parents taught us and now I teach to my son,’’ she said. ‘‘And it’s not fair.’’
Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, told the council, ‘‘My heart is broken.’’
‘‘I know I cannot bring my baby back,’’ she said in a minute-long speech during which she struggled to hold back tears. ‘‘But I’m sure going to make changes so that this does not happen to another family.’’
Filling in Details
Details of Martin’s and Zimmerman’s pasts have emerged that lend complexity to their characters.
Ryan Julison, a Martin family spokesman, said yesterday that the teenager was in Sanford because he was suspended from school last month for having a baggie that contained marijuana residue in his book bag. The family believes the suspension had nothing to do with the killing, he said.
In October, Martin was suspended from school after being found with jewelry and a screwdriver that a security staffer described as a ‘‘burglary tool,” the Miami Herald reported. He was searched after being caught writing graffiti, the newspaper reported.
Martin said a friend gave him the jewelry, according to the report. He wasn’t disciplined because of the discovery, but was suspended for graffiti, according to a Miami-Dade Schools Police report obtained by the Herald.
A lawyer for the family, Ben Crump, told the newspaper that Martin’s parents knew nothing of the jewelry, that he didn’t believe the incident occurred and that in any event it is “irrelevant.”
The teenager was walking to his father’s home after buying Skittles candy and an iced tea from a convenience store when he was shot.
The Orlando Sentinel, citing “authorities” whom it didn’t name, reported yesterday that Martin had attacked Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk. That matches the account that Zimmerman gave police and was corroborated by eyewitnesses, the newspaper reported.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson, the civil rights activist, has advocated a voter-registration drive with the aim of electing officials who would repeal Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
Local officials said the law, which relieves a citizen of responsibility to retreat when he feels threatened in a public place and gives him the right to “meet force with force,” prevented them from making an arrest after Zimmerman killed Martin.
Strife and Violence
Zimmerman, who is studying criminal justice, was arrested once in 2005 on charges of battery on a police officer and resisting arrest with violence, according to the New York Times. Those charges were dropped.
That same year, Zimmerman was accused of pushing his ex-fiancee during an argument, according to an Orlando Sentinel report. In competing court petitions, the woman accused Zimmerman of slapping her in the past, while Zimmerman claimed that she was the aggressor in the fight, according to the newspaper.
The U.S. Justice Department last week opened a civil rights inquiry into the incident. Fourteen Democrats on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking that as part of it he “explore the applicability” of the federal hate-crime statute and other federal laws.
Today, House Democrats will hold an unofficial hearing on Capitol Hill addressing the shooting. The forum starts at 3 p.m., Matt Morgan, a spokesman for Representative John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary panel, said in an e-mail yesterday. Martin’s mother will testify, said Julison.
“If something happens to your children, you want to know what happened,” Fulton told the council. “As a parent you want some answers to your questions.”