Protests escalate over Trayvon Martin's shooting death

Saturday , March 31, 2012 - 7:45 AM

Monique O. Madan

MIAMI — With Trayvon Martin’s family criss-crossing the country and new details emerging daily about the teen’s death in Sanford, Fla., the family’s legal team says the case is creating interest around the globe.

"When you have London, Paris, Australia and Canada calling you, you know the world is watching," said family attorney Benjamin Crump.

"Things keep developing. I see this going in the history books."

The case has sparked nationwide debates. Martin, 17, of Miami Gardens, was visiting family in Sanford, when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain, who said he was acting in self-defense.

According to Sanford police, George Zimmerman, 28, said he shot the teen after he was punched in the nose, knocked down and had his head repeatedly slammed against a concrete sidewalk. It has been reported that Zimmerman had a broken nose and a wound to the back of his head.

On Thursday, George Zimmerman’s brother, Robert, spoke out for the first time, calling his brother "a neighbor everyone would want to have," on CNN.

He insisted that Zimmerman defended himself after being attacked by the teen.

"He prevented his firearm from being taken away from him," Robert Zimmerman Jr. told Piers Morgan on CNN.

Zimmerman and Martin each have their supporters.

A Texas-based group called National Association for Legal Gun Defense has offered to put up $10,000 to help pay for Zimmerman’s expenses.

The group represents gun owners involved in self-defense shooting cases.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, attorney Blue Rannefeld of Fort Worth, Texas, said he has been trying to reach Zimmerman or his attorney, Craig Sonner, to make the group’s offer.

And more than 2 million people have signed an online petition on Change.org asking for Zimmerman to be prosecuted.

From supporters lighting up social media networks, to advocates donning hoodies and themed apparel, rallies are being planned around the country.

In Sanford, the NAACP on Saturday will host an "Anger to Answers" rally. The rally, led by civil rights figures Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton, will begin with a march to the Sanford Police Department.

Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, along with attorney Benjamin Crump, are scheduled to attend a "Justice for Trayvon" rally Sunday at Miami’s Bayfront Park.

"The parents want to show Miami that Trayvon is the city’s native son," Crump said. "He was born and raised in this community. We all share their pain and suffering."

In Canada, members of Occupy Toronto and others have promised to gather in front of Toronto City Hall at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, holding glow sticks as they march to the U.S. Embassy.

The rally is aimed at "giving the Martin family support and solidarity, as well as repealing vigilante laws," said organizer Kemi Omololu-Olunloyo.

"We don’t know the family, and they don’t know us. But they need to know that Canada is here for them," Omololu-Olunloyo said. "This is way past hoodies, Skittles and iced tea. It’s history. We don’t want another Trayvon waiting in the wings."

Martin died with $22, a bag of Skittles and iced tea in his pockets.

Meanwhile, late Thursday, Sanford Police backed off an earlier threat to arrest members of the media who approached or asked city employees questions off the clock.

The city issued a statement saying it "regrets any inconvenience caused by the improvident wording of the advisory."

Sanford police declined comment Friday on why the change was made.

A Melbourne Beach, Fla., man has been charged with threatening Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, who recently stepped down from his position after city leaders gave a no-confidence vote in his leadership.

According to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, John Carnduff Stewart emailed Lee on March 23, saying he and his family should be killed. Melbourne Beach is about 70 miles south of Sanford.

The email’s subject line read: "Coming after you."

Stewart said he had several weapons and that he wanted to hurt local police officers. He signed the email with his name, home address and a phone number. After his arrest, he was placed on electronic monitoring as a condition of his $10,000 bond, reports show.

The slain teen’s autopsy remains in the hands of the state attorney’s office, and has not yet been released.

"In order to protect the integrity of the case, there will be no further comment at this time," a statement released Thursday said.

Meanwhile, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., funeral director who prepared Martin’s body for its early March viewing and funeral, said the youth did not have any marks on his body indicating that he had been in a fight.

Richard Kurtz, of Mizell and Kurtz Funeral Home, said he only saw a gunshot wound on the upper left side of Martin’s chest.

"I did not see any signs or evidence of him getting into a fight or scuffle," Kurtz said. "His hands and knuckles looked very normal."

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(c)2012 The Miami Herald

Visit The Miami Herald at www.miamiherald.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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