MIAMI — Political leaders, sport stars and entertainers were among several thousand people who gathered Sunday at a Miami rally to call for an arrest in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Florida teenager by a neighborhood watch volunteer.
The rally in Trayvon Martin’s hometown was one of the largest yet and drew basketball stars Alonzo Mourning and Isaiah Thomas, singers Chaka Khan and Betty Wright, politicians and civil rights leaders.
Martin’s father, speaking briefly, promised the crowd he would not stop fighting “for my Trayvon and for your Trayvon.”
“Each and every one of us feels the pain of this family simply because Trayvon Martin could have been one of all of us,” said Mourning, the former Miami Heat player.
The rally came a day after thousands marched through Sanford, the central Florida town where George Zimmerman, 28, shot and killed the 17-year-old Martin in February.
Martin was walking back from a convenience store, where he had gone to buy candy and iced tea, when he and Zimmerman got into an altercation. Zimmerman says he was attacked and has claimed self-defense; Martin’s family disputes his version of events.
They point to 911 calls, a surveillance video of Zimmerman from shortly after the fatal shooting, and other records that they say prove Martin was not the aggressor. Zimmerman has not been arrested, although state and federal authorities are investigating.
The case has led to protests across the nation and spurred a debate about race and self-defense laws. Martin was black; Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is Hispanic.
Speaking at the rally Sunday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said the case was about ending all types of racial profiling — not just in criminal cases, but also by banks, insurance companies and in the job market. “End profiling now,” the civil rights activist said to applause.
Jackson also said Martin’s case illustrated the high number of black students who are suspended from school. A report issued by the U.S. Department of Education last month found that black students are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended or expelled. Martin had been suspended from school for having a baggie that contained marijuana residue shortly before he was killed.
“We must stop suspending our children,” Jackson said, asking the crowd to repeat: “Invest in them. Educate them.”
Many of the people who gathered at the bayside park wore T-shirts with Martin’s image and the words “Justice for Trayvon.” Others wore buttons that said, “Do I look suspicious?”
Numerous supporters came dressed in hooded sweatshirts like the one Martin was wearing when he died. Among them: Mourning’s son Trey.
“It could have been me,” Trey Mourning, 15, told the crowd.