CLEARWATER —The two officials with power to arrest and charge the man who killed Markeis McGlockton during an argument over a convenience store parking spot last month were not sitting in the pews at St. John Primitive Baptist Church on Sunday.
But national civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton had a clear message for Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, State Attorney Bernie McCabe and defenders of the Stand Your Ground law that has so far protected shooter Michael Drejka from arrest.
"If you got to the scene, Mr. Sheriff, and Markeis had been standing over the white man, you would have cuffed him and taken him in jail," Sharpton said to a roaring audience. "The state attorney ought to move forward because you have probable cause."
"(Drejka) killed an unarmed black man who was standing up for his family. Lock him up, or give up your badge."
As about 400 people sat in the sweltering chapel Sunday, often jumping to their feet with applause, Sharpton condemned the 13-year-old law, which allows people to assert a "stand your ground" defense if they fear serious injury or death, for its disproportionate impact on people of color.
He was joined by the parents of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African-American killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012 who was initially not arrested after the shooting based on the Stand Your Ground law but used a self defense argument to avoid conviction.
And before Sharpton addressed the audience, all five Democratic candidates for governor and attorney general candidate Sean Shaw took to the pulpit one by one and vowed to repeal the law if elected, drawing roars from the audience.
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented Martin’s parents and is now working with local counsel for McGlockton’s family, explained how the law disproportionately protects white shooters because "when black people make a stand your ground argument, it’s from inside a jail cell."
"Stand Your Ground is a racist, Jim Crow law that gives white people a license to kill unarmed people of color," Crump said.
McGlockton, 28, who was black, was killed on July 19 when Drejka, 47, who is white, confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend over why she had parked in a handicap-reserved parking space without a permit at the Circle A Food Store at 1201 Sunset Point Road.
McGlockton was in the store with his 5-year-old son but heard the argument, walked outside and shoved Drejka to the ground.
Surveillance video shows Drejka pulling out a gun and shooting McGlockton, who stumbled back inside the store, where he died in front of his son.
Gualtieri declined to arrest Drejka, stating the shooter’s claim that he was in fear of further attack met the criteria under the law for using deadly force. McCabe, the state attorney, is currently reviewing the case.
Throughout the service Sunday, Crump and Sharpton evoked the surveillance footage, which they said shows McGlockton taking steps backwards after shoving Drejka, far from a sign he was going to come at the man again.
Sharpton said if anyone had the right to stand his ground, it was McGlockton. He was protecting his family, the very thing black men are criticized by white America for not doing enough, Sharpton said.
The church was filled to capacity for the nearly-two hour service, leaving many peering in the locked glass doors. But outside of the church, about 300 supporters demonstrated with signs and chants, many marching through the North Greenwood neighborhood demanding justice.
"Enough is enough," a group of about 200 shouted before marching through the streets behind a Black Lives Matter banner.
Many carried signs decrying the law. One read in bold letters, "The whole system is racist."
For Theodis Clay, 61, who lives a few blocks from the church, McGlockton’s killing was another case of the legal system failing a person because of his race.
"You know, you get tired of blacks getting the short end of the stick," he said. "Everything is done to keep us down."
A 2012 report from the Urban Institute showed that across the nation, Stand Your Ground laws protect white shooters. In cases where the shooter was white and the victim was black, the rate of justifiable homicide was 34 percent, compared to 3 percent when the shooter was black and the victim was white.
And a 2012 Tampa Bay Times analysis on Stand Your Ground found that in Florida, 73 percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white person.
For that, Sharpton urged law enforcement to take McGlockton’s case to the courts, "while we come to the voting booth and put in some legislators that will make Stand Your Ground something of the past."
Tracy Martin, the father of Trayvon Martin, told the crowd the acquittal of his son’s killer, the lack of consequences for killing of unarmed black men, has "enabled the bigots, the racists and those who don’t value African-American boys and girls."
But McGlockton’s father, Michael McGlockton, said his son’s death will not be in vain. He looked around at the church packed to capacity, the news media watching intently.
He remembered discussions where his son said he wanted his name to be known, to make an impact.
He’d say "Pops, I want to make it big, I want everyone to know who I am," the father said.
He looked out at the crowd.
"God has a way of making that happen."
TAMPA BAY TIMES COVERAGE: STAND YOUR GROUND CASE
Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.
Editor’s note — This article was changed to reflect the following correction: Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was initially not arrested in 2012 after killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin based on the state’s Stand Your Ground law. He later avoided conviction using a self defense argument. An article in Monday’s paper stated the incorrect defense