African American leaders to Sanford Police chief: Resign
Members of Sanford's Black community are calling for a boycott of the city's police department unless chief Bill Lee steps down. That was the message at a rally held at the Allen Chapel AME church in Sanford's Historic black Goldsboro neighborhood Tuesday Night. There's still anger at the lack of an arrest in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.
Many Sanford residents can’t understand why the neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman who shot and killed Martin, still hasn’t been arrested three weeks after the incident.
Police said they didn’t have evidence to dispute Zimmerman’s self defence claim. They’ve turned the investigation over to state and federal authorities.
On Tuesday night more than 350 people packed into the Allen Chapel AME church on Olive Street. For more than two hours they sat shoulder to shoulder in the stifling heat, listening to speakers from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, like the South Eastern Regional director Kevin Myles. Still more people crowded outside the church.
Local residents also spoke, like Henry Sweet. He had this to say to police chief Bill Lee:
“If he is not fired by 26 March, we will boycott the police department, we will shut it down,” said Sweet.
He urged people at the meeting to ask for a Seminole County Sherrif's Deputy, not a Sanford police officer, next time they call 911.
Also speaking was Orlando State Representative Geraldine Thompson. She wants a review of the state’s “stand your ground” gun law.
“How do you claim self defence when you are the aggressor? I want you to know that our first order of business at the beginning of the next legislative session is to repeal this unjust law," said Thompson.
But the spotlight was turned back on the Sanford police department by NAACP's national president Benjamin Jealous.
He said police have not done a good enough job of protecting black residents.
“I am here tonight ultimately because Sanford has a problem. One time is too many times. But we all know there’s been more than one time.”
Jealous told the crowd not to give up until Martin’s killer is behind bars.
After the meeting many of those gathered marched the few blocks to continue their protest outside the Sanford Police station.
One of the protesters was Vince Taylor, vice chair of the Florida Civil Rights Association.
“Do you know what, it would have been very easy for them to avoid all of this outrage with a simple arrest," he said. "So we are expressing our distaste because it feels like Jim Crow all over again. We’re scared to send our kids down to get some skittles from the store."
Further gatherings are planned including one Thursday night which the Reverend Al Sharpton is expected to attend.