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Al Sharpton Leads Fla. Rally to End 'Stand Your Ground' Law

WI Web Staff | 3/11/2014, noon
From left: Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, parents of Trayvon Martin, Rev. Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network, and Phyllis Giles, mother of Michael Giles, march to the Florida Capitol on March 10 in Tallahassee, Fla., during a rally against the state's "Stand Your Ground" laws. (Courtesy of National Action Network)

The Rev. Al Sharpton, joined by the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, led a crowd of hundreds Monday to the steps of Florida's state Capitol in a demonstration against the state's controversial "stand your ground" law.

Sharpton, whose National Action Network organized the Tallahassee rally, called Florida "ground zero" in the fight to end such "unjust and wicked" laws.

"When I arrived [in Florida] last night, a man jokingly said to me, 'Reverend Al, you didn't come down here to start no trouble,'" Sharpton told the crowd. "I said, 'Let me tell you something. When unarmed children can be killed and the jury can't call it what it is, that is trouble.' … I didn't come down here to start trouble, I've come down here to stop trouble."

Florida is one of the many states with a "stand your ground" law, which allows the defense of oneself with deadly force — with no duty to avoid or retreat from the situation — if the individual has a right to be in the vicinity.

Monday's rally was spurred by several recent high-profile cases involving African-Americans that brought the law to the national forefront, most notably the trial of Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman.

In July, Zimmerman was acquitted of the 2012 shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon, a case that Sharpton helped to publicize.

Zimmerman, 30, a fair-skinned, self-identified Hispanic, was a former neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., at the time of the shooting. He admitted to killing Martin but claimed self-defense. His acquittal led to protests nationwide.

"Florida failing us. Florida is failing our teenagers, Florida is failing our young men and women. Florida has to change this law now," Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said during the rally.

"When we started off, Trayvon Martin was our main and only focus," she said. "We never imagined how many people would be hurting, how many people would go through this with this same law, how many people would get off and not be held accountable. We had no clue that it was so rampant."

Most recently, Michael Dunn, a white man, was on trial for fatally shooting Jordan Davis, another unarmed black teenager, after he fired 10 rounds into an SUV occupied by Davis and three friends at a Florida gas station in November 2012 amid a dispute over loud music coming from the vehicle.

The jury was unable to reach a decision on the first-degree murder charge, but convicted Dunn, 47, of three counts of attempted murder and shooting into the teen's vehicle. He faces a potential 105 years in prison and will receive at least 60 years under the state's mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

Though Dunn did not invoke the controversial law during the trial, he claimed he acted in self-defense because he viewed a weapon inside the SUV.

Jordan's family was also on hand for the rally.

"Florida, know this — there is a groundswell rising up and calling for change," said Lucia McBath, Jordan's mother. "Under our Father's grace in heaven, together we are uniting to announce that the good people of this country have had enough. We want our children and our husbands and our wives protected. We want to feel safe."