The Lookout

Sharpton draws crowd for Trayvon Martin case, demands justice as special prosecutor appointed

Zachary Roth
The Lookout

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Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at a rally for Trayvon Martin (Julie Fletcher/AP)

Florida's governor announced the appointment of a special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case Thursday, a response to growing public pressure for a more robust response from authorities. Separately, the Rev. Al Sharpton and other speakers at a boisterous rally demanded that the teen's killer, George Zimmerman, be charged.

Gov. Rick Scott appointed the state attorney for the Jacksonville area, Angela Corey, as a special prosecutor running the state's investigation of the February 26 shooting, which has caused widespread national outrage. Concerns had been raised that the office of Brevard-Seminole State Attorney Norm Wolfinger, who had been heading the probe, might have had trouble conducting a full and fair investigation, given ties to local law enforcement.

Scott, a Republican, also announced that a special task force headed by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll would study Florida's "stand your ground'' law, which allows armed individuals to use deadly force if they're attacked, and which some argue could complicate efforts to prosecute Zimmerman.

Sanford police chief Bill Lee announced Thursday afternoon that he would temporarily step aside, amid public criticism of his department's handling of the case.

The U.S. Justice Department has announced that it's conducting its own investigation into whether Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is from Peru, is guilty of a hate crime by targeting Martin, an African-American, on the basis of his race.

Rev. Al Sharpton rallied a largely black Sanford crowd of thousands Thursday night at a downtown park. "We want to see Zimmerman in court with handcuffs behind his back, charged with the death of this young man, Trayvon Martin!," said the civil-rights activist and MSNBC host.

"I pledge I will not let my son die in vain!" Martin's father, Tracy Martin, told the crowd.

Sharpton urged rally-goers to give money to Martin's cause, telling them he was donating $2,500, and that the television judge Greg Mathis was putting in $10,000.

Also Thursday, Rep. Allen West, one of two African-American Republican members of Congress, and a tea party favorite, called the police's handling of the shooting "an outrage," and said Zimmerman "certainly should not be walking free, still having a concealed weapons carry permit."

And Friday morning, President Obama weighed in on the controversy, in unusually personal terms. "I can only imagine what these parents are going through," he told reporters. "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

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