The local residents were among three busloads of metro Atlantans who left early Thursday for the nine-hour drive to the city near Orlando.
They were joining the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s call for justice for Martin, who was shot to death on Feb. 26 by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.
The youth was walking back to his father’s fiancée’s home from the store when Zimmerman accosted him and shot him.
Zimmerman, who is 80 pounds heavier than the teen, claimed self-defense. As of press time late Thursday, police had not arrested him.
Martin was black and Zimmerman is white.
Only Skittles and an iced tea were found on the youth’s body.
Sharpton said this case is as bad as it gets.
“When you have an unarmed young man killed for no reason, and they refuse to arrest the assailant, it puts all of us at risk,” he said.
The 911 tapes released March 16 revealed a 911 operator telling Zimmerman not to follow the youth and the teen’s desperate cry for help before he was shot to death.
The DeKalb residents joined thousands attending a rally Thursday night at First Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford.
Hundreds of buses were expected from around the country.
Decatur attorney Mawuli “Mel” Davis, who made the trip to Sanford, said Wednesday that he had to go to support the Martin family.
“This is not a case for us,” he said late Wednesday.
“But we feel obligated to challenge what they have done. It’s unheard of that the police have not arrested the shooter.”
The Atlanta bus trip was organized within two days, and Davis’ Flat Shoals Parkway law office was one of the places that people could purchase tickets. By Wednesday afternoon, more than 10 people had been to the office to pay for the trip, which departed at 6 a.m. on Thursday from First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Before the shooting, Zimmerman, 28, had called 911 to say the youth was “suspicious.”
Records show he had called 911 perhaps as much as 50 times reporting “suspicious persons” in his neighborhood.
Zimmerman is being protected by Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law that allows a citizen to use deadly force against an attacker if they feel threatened.
In his 911 call about Martin, he told the operator:
“He got his hand in his waist. … He is a black male.”
When the 911 operator asked him if he was following the teen, Zimmerman said yes.
“OK, we don’t need you to do that,” the operator told him.
Even though Zimmerman replied with an “OK,” he continued to pursue the teen.
Sharpton calls Florida’s Stand Your Ground law absurd.
“They are saying that someone who is not a law enforcement official can stop and get into an altercation and kill someone and use self-defense as an excuse,” he said. “The young man had no weapon and had the legal right to be where he was. What are we talking about. Then anyone can walk up in the state of Florida and do anything and then say, ‘I felt threatened.’”
Martin’s family says that they don’t believe their son would have been killed if it were not for the color of his skin.
Davis, who is a partner in the Davis Bozeman Law Firm on Flat Shoals, said we just can’t be silent when an unarmed child is killed.
“It just can’t be business as usual,” he said. “We will rally and call for the arrest of Zimmerman, call for justice for Martin, and call for investigation of this Police Department. If it was self-defense, it’s a question for a jury, not the police.”
He was accompanied on the trip by family members of 19-year-old Ariston Walters, who was shot in the back by Union City Police on Dec. 14 last year. Making the trip with Davis, who is the family’s attorney, were Walters’ 10-month-old daughter Ajaleh and her mother Shantaya Holmes and his stepdad Russel Van Dross.
At a March 21 rally in New York City’s Union Square, Trayvon Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, and his mother, Sybrina Fulton March, told the crowd of more than 1,000 that their son was a good kid.
“We are not going to stop until we get justice for Trayvon,” his father said. “I am here today to make sure justice is served and no other parents have to go through this again.”
Through Thursday, more than 1.3 million people had signed an online petition they created calling on Norman Wolfinger, Florida’s 18th District state’s attorney, to investigate Trayvon’s death and prosecute Zimmerman for shooting and killing him.
“Trayvon was our hero,” the parents write at www.change.org/petitions/prosecute-the-killer-of-our-son-17-year-old-trayvon-martin. “At the age 9, Trayvon pulled his father from a burning kitchen, saving his life. He loved sports and horseback riding. At only 17 he had a bright future ahead of him with dreams of attending college and becoming an aviation mechanic. Now that’s all gone.”
The parents said that Zimmerman admitted to police that he shot Trayvon in the chest.
“Zimmerman, the community’s self-appointed ‘neighborhood watch leader,’ called the police to report a suspicious person when he saw Trayvon, a young black man, walking from the store. But Zimmerman still hasn’t been charged for murdering our son,” they said.
John Evans, president of the DeKalb NAACP, did not make the trip to Sanford, but he said Thursday he personally believes it was a hate crime.
“It’s awful,” he said. “We have to stay on this case. This might be the one to jolt this country and us into action.”
Evans recalled the December shooting of Walters in Union City.
“We went there when they shot that boy in the back and we dropped it,” he said. “We got on the stump and hollered, and then we went home and slept. We need to stay on this one in Florida because the laws down there are so dumb and directed at black folks.
“I am just hoping this will give us a power surge toward direct actions against unjust laws and the system,” he said.