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African-American Leaders To Rally Against Police Shootings

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Travis McNeil (Photo Credit: Ron Robinson)

Travis McNeil (Photo Credit: Ron Robinson)

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LIBERTY CITY (CBS4) — Ten-year-old Travis McNeil Jr. wiped away tears Sunday as a church full of people prayed for the father he lost at the hands of Miami Police.

Dozens stood at the alter of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church on NW 62nd Street in Liberty City to rally against the spate of police-involved shootings that have plagued the area since summer.

It began in July, and less than a year later seven African-American men have been gunned down by police.

Travis McNeil Senior was the last person to die this way.

“First of all we need to stop,” said his son. “We just need to stop the madness.”

A little more than a week ago McNeil buried his father and he said the wounds are still very raw.

“I just feel like some giant wormhole is in my heart eating me alive,” he said. “I just can’t describe this feeling, it’s too sad.”

It’s an issue that also saddened many in attendance at the rally. Their prayers and their protests all calling for change beginning with the firing of Miami’s police Chief Miguel Exposito.

“We are sick and tired of burying our sons to the City of Miami Police Department,” said the Rev. Billy Strange Jr. from the pulpit.

Surrounded by other clergy and Miami City Commissioner Richard Dunn, Strange and others vowed to continue their fight until there are answers to the police involved shootings and a change on the street level.

“We demand a change we can not continue to have insensitive police, police that do not understand our culture policing our community,” Strange said. “We are tired.”

The anger felt by community leaders in Miami is echoed in the nation’s capital.

Last Thursday U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., wrote Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday to ask for a Justice Department investigation in the shootings. Wilson said only the federal government has the resources and independence to give “close, objective scrutiny” to the deaths.

“What’s going on in Miami-Dade County, Florida? Is it open season on African-American men? It’s outrageous,” said Congresswoman Wilson.

A spokeswoman said the Justice Department is reviewing Wilson’s letter.

A spokesman for Chief Exposito did not return CBS4’s phone calls requesting an interview on Sunday.

The group of African-American leaders will take their rally to the streets on Thursday March 3rd at 5:30 p.m. That is when they plan to march from Gibson Park to the Miami Police Department.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. )

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