CLEARWATER — On the first anniversary of the day his son Markeis McGlockton was shot and killed over a parking space, the father stood outside Mt. Zion United Methodist Church and talked about the hard days that came afterward.
But there is one thing that makes Michael McGlockton thankful.
"It's been a rough year. It's been really hard," the 47-year-old said. "It's a blessing that he has not been forgotten, to see that people still care."
More than 100 family, friends, and supporters gathered Friday night to hold a vigil to honor the memory of Markeis McGlockton, a father of three who died at the age of 28, and to demand justice for his death.
To them, that would mean the conviction of Michael Drejka, the man who authorities said fatally shot McGlockton during that July 19, 2018 dispute over a convenience store parking space.
Drejka confronted McGlockton's girlfriend Britany Jacobs about parking in a spot reserved for handicapped-placards. McGlockton ended up pushing Drejka to the ground.
Drejka drew a firearm and shot McGlockton in the chest.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri declined to arrest Drejka, citing Florida's stand your ground law. Gualtieri's decision sparked protests locally and nationally. Later, Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe charged Drejka with manslaughter.
The trial is set for August. Drejka did not pursue an immunity hearing under Florida's stand your ground law. Instead, his attorneys will argue that Drejka acted in self-defense to the jury itself.
The speakers at Friday's vigil mourned McGlockton's death and celebrated his life, remembering him as a caring father, family member and artist.
But the ceremony also focused on the upcoming trial and on the state's stand your ground law.
"This murder is a murder, it wasn't self defense. And it is an issue of race," said Andre Danford, McGlockton's brother-in-law. "If somebody white does something to me and I shoot him, I'm going to jail, no question."
Local groups such as the Bay Area Defenders, Answer Suncoast and Civil Liberty Law organized the vigil with help from Mt. Zion United Methodist Church and Allendale United Methodist Church. There were poetry readings, gospel singers and speeches from activists calling for the repeal of stand your ground.
"Tonight's celebration is an act of resistance, an act of protest," Rev. Lee Hall Perkins said. "We want to show that hate doesn't win."
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More than a dozen of McGlockton's family members sat in the church's front rows for the service, including his parents and Jacobs, 26. She was accompanied by 6-year-old Markeis McGlockton Jr., who also witnessed his father's death.
"The thought of losing one of my children had never crossed my mind," said Markeis McGlockton's mother, Monica Moore Robinson. "All I have left are the memories … but I promise I will be one of the voices of justice for Markeis."
After the ceremony, more than 50 people marched from the church to the corner of U.S. 19 and Sunset Point Road, chanting "no justice, no peace" and "justice for Markeis."
Then they held a moment of silence at the intersection.
As Danford walked on U.S. 19 back to the church, he kept a close eye on his three young children, who he brought to the ceremony so they could see the support from the community for McGlockton's family.
"I want them to learn to stick together and learn they can make the world better as long as they're unified," he said. "And next month at the trial I hope they see that justice can win."
Contact Aaron Holmes at email@example.com or 706-347-1880. Follow @aaronpholmes.