SANFORD (CBSMiami/AP) – The murder of a Miami Gardens teen by a Sanford neighborhood watch captain has sparked public outrage and demands for justice.
George Zimmerman, 28, claims he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month in self-defense during a confrontation in a gated community. Police have described Zimmerman as white; his family says he is Hispanic and not racist. He’s not been charged.
At Michael Krop Senior High, Martin’s former classmates and teachers say something needs to be done.
“I said ‘No, I don’t believe it’. Then when I found out it was true, I just broke down,” said Paulesha Frazer, a junior at the school. “He was one of the sweetest, most quiet kids here.”
“This case hit home for me,” said Joyce Carr who is organizing a bus trip to Sanford for a rally on Monday. “There’s been a lot of tears which I’ve shed.”
Public outrage over the lack of charges has extended beyond the state.
A petition on Change.org started by Martin’s parents now has more than half a million signatures from people around the world. The petition calls on Florida District Attorney Norman Wolfinger to bring charges against Zimmerman.
A number of celebrities have taken to Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about the petition.
Musicians like Cher, Wyclef Jean, Talib Kweli, Clay Aiken, Monica, Janelle Monae, and Raheem Devaughn all tweeted support for it as did Spike Lee, Mia Farrow, D. L. Hughley, Blair Underwood, Alyssa Milano, Kerry Washington, Estelle, Gabrielle Union and Chad Ochocinco.
Russell Simmons tweeted last Thursday: “Let’s seek justice for Trayvon Martin. We will fight for a society that is compassionate and loving, not one that pre-judges and stereotypes.”
Talib Kweli retweeted a post about Trayvon’s parents’ petition when it was nearing 150,000 signatures: “Almost 150K have signed this petition started by #Trayvon Martin’s mom. Will you sign & RT?”
Janelle Monae, who has posted several tweets with links to the petition throughout last week wrote: “I’m gonna keep sending this out until justice is served. Racial profiling on our people has got to end.”
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that they have opened an investigation into Martin’s death.
“The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, and the FBI opened an investigation into the facts and circumstances of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation.”
Also on Monday, Gov. Rick Scott called on Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey to assist the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office in their investigation.
“I understand an investigation was initiated by the Sanford Police Department and referred to the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office. I believe it is appropriate that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement provide any assistance necessary to fully investigate this matter.”
Ben Crump, the Martin family attorney, told CBS4 how dissatisfied the family was with the Sanford police investigation.
“We believe they have taken the loose cannon, George Zimmerman’s word for everything. There is not a shred of evidence to support everything he said in the way of self-defense, but they accepting that,” said Crump.
Martin’s father is not accepting anything but justice.
“He destroyed a piece of my family and it is sad. As a father, I want justice for my son,” said Tracey Martin.
Several rallies are planned for this week to demand justice for Martin’s family.
Wednesday, a peace march will be held in Liberty City starting at 5 p.m. The group will meet at Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park to start the march. The family of Martin will be in attendance at the march.
On Thursday there will be two rallies. The New Black Panther Party plans to hold a rally in front of the Sanford Police Department at 1 p.m. The Rev. Al Sharpton will lead another rally at the First Shiloh Baptist Church in Sanford at 7 p.m.
A University of Miami student is organizing a bus trip to Sanford to take part in a rally on Monday, March 26th. The bus holds 55 passengers. Seats are $25 each. Deposits can be made via Pay Pal, no later than March 23rd. The bus will depart on Monday, March 26th at 8AM. For more info contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.