On the heels of the Department of Justice’s announcement that it will open an investigation into the shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, the NAACP hosted a town hall meeting Tuesday night where community leaders planned further demonstrations on behalf of the slain teen and called for the arrest of shooter George Zimmerman.
Leaders from the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Nation of Islam attended the town hall, which took place in the Florida town of Sanford, where 17-year-old Martin was shot and killed by Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood watchman who alleged Martin looked suspicious when passing through a gated community while on his way to a convenience store for a drink and a bag of Skittles.
"I stand here as a son, father, uncle, who is tired of being scared for our boys," Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP, said at the meeting, according to the Associated Press. "I'm tired of telling our young men how they can't dress, where they can't go and how they can't behave."
Local NAACP leader Turner Clayton Jr. told the crowd that the Justice Department should not stop at a review of the investigation but take over the entire Sanford Police Department.
"This is just the beginning of what is taking place," Clayton said according to AP. "We're going to make sure justice prevails."
Zimmerman has yet to be charged or arrested for the shooting and claims that he acted in self-defense although Martin was unarmed. In addition to claims of discrimination, calls for his arrest have been further complicated by Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground Law, which doesn’t require a person to attempt retreat before using deadly force against an attacker.
In light of the police department’s refusal to arrest Zimmerman, the NAACP called for the dismissal of police chief Bill Lee and called on community members to boycott the department if Lee is not removed by March 31.
"It just opens up wounds that our fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers were going through in years past," local NAACP leader Eddie Whitfield told local news station WPTV5. "His human rights as a human being were violated...."
Also Tuesday, State Attorney Norm Wolfinger announced that a grand jury will convene on April 10 to consider evidence in the case after Martin's attorney revealed new details about a cellphone conversation Martin had with his girlfriend just minutes before the shooting.
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