TALLAHASSEE — Led by local officials, nearly 200 protesters rallied at the Capitol on Wednesday, using the Trayvon Martin shooting death to voice their qualms with racial profiling, the state's justice system and the controversial "stand your ground" law.
Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, led the mostly black group in chants of "I am Trayvon Martin" and "No justice, no peace!" The rally, organized by the National Christian League of Councils, was one of dozens that have taken place since Martin, an unarmed teenager, was shot dead in Sanford.
Last month, a group of criminal defense attorneys converged on Gov. Rick Scott's office to protest the fact that the man who shot Martin, George Zimmerman, was not arrested.
Zimmerman told Sanford police he shot Martin in self-defense after Martin attacked him.
"But for the grace of God, Trayvon could have been my son," said John Marks, mayor of Tallahassee. "We're not here to try (Zimmerman) in the streets or through the press. We just want the justice system to work as it should."
Former Florida Sen. Al Lawson said it is time to repeal the "stand your ground" law.
The 2005 bill was approved overwhelmingly by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush. It allows people to use deadly force when they believe their life is at risk.
Lawson voted for "stand your ground" in 2005, as it received a unanimous vote in the Senate. "The law was passed for the National Rifle Association," he said. "I voted for the bill. It was a mistake."
The rally came just an hour before Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll met with the Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes, pastor of Tallahassee's Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. Carroll and Holmes lead a task force put together by Scott to investigate the "stand your ground" law.
"If we want to do a very thorough and comprehensive job, we need to wait until the investigation is completed," said Holmes. "We do not want to politicize this process."
"I'm going to be very objective," said Holmes. "I personally feel Mr. Zimmerman should have been arrested, but everyone deserves justice."
The task force will begin in earnest after the investigation into the shooting is complete.
Frustrated by what he called "stalling" by Scott, Sen. Chris Smith has created a task force to look into "stand your ground," and scheduled the first meeting for today in Broward County.