The meeting, which was organized by the Seminole County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, came on the heels of a national media frenzy surrounding the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Martin, who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, 28, on Feb. 26 after what police are calling an “altercation” between the two, has since become a poster child for racial tensions across the country.
For local residents, he serves as another example of a police department that does little investigation into the death of a black man.
The rally was one of many held in Sanford this week – with more being organized daily. On Monday college students protested outside of the Seminole County criminal courthouse for the arrest of Zimmerman. Many held a package of Skittles and bottled iced tea – the only two things found on Martin after the shooting.
Also, the New Black Panther Party has scheduled a protest at the Sanford Police Department on Thursday and that evening the Rev. Al Sharpton will hold a rally at the First Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.
Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. has continually asserted since the shooting occurred that Zimmerman acted in self-defense. Zimmerman has not been arrested for the shooting.
Police had hoped the release of eight 911 calls made the night of Martin’s shooting would help prove that position, however supporters of Martin disagree.
Speaking with NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous, residents told stories Wednesday of past encounters with Sanford police, and how they believe they were wronged.
Sanford resident Myranette Boynto said, “Everybody in Sanford needs to stand up because everybody in Sanford is a Trayvon Martin when it comes to this police department.”
Resident Hannibal Duncan said it is only when issues such as this are brought to the media’s attention do Sanford residents feel they can speak out against the police department.
“It’s just this inherent fear of law enforcement,” he said. “You feel like you can’t say anything.”
Jealous said each statement would be forward to the U.S. Department of Justice who on Tuesday announced they will investigate the case.
The evening before hundreds gathered inside and outside the Allen Chapel AME Church for a rally for the arrest of Zimmerman. As heads of organizations such as Metropolitan Urban League and the American Civil Liberties Union spoke inside, hundreds with signs stood outside the church chanting, “We want justice!”
During that meeting Seminole County NAACP Branch President Turner Clayton Jr. said the community is demanding Zimmerman’s arrest, a take over of the Sanford Police Department by the U.S. Department of Justice and the resignation of Lee.
He said, “Even though the evidence speaks for itself, we fail to see why the Sanford Police Department can’t hear what is being spoken."