NEW YORK (PIX11)—With a protest Thursday night in Sanford, Florida, led by Rev. Al Sharpton and a rally with Trayvon Martin's parents Wednesday evening in Union Square, New Yorkers are leading an outcry against the handling of the unarmed Florida teen's killing. Thursday afternoon, at least one demand they had in the case was realized.
"Because my presence has been a distraction," Sanford, Florida police chief Bill Lee read from a statement at a 3:40 P.M. news conference, "I have come to the decision to temporarily step down as police chief."
The move was one of the two main demands of people worldwide who are rallying around the family of Trayvon Martin. At the time of the chief's resignation, 1.29 million people had signed a petition on http://www.change.org demanding swift justice in the case of the 17 year-old who was carrying only a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea when he was shot and killed on February 26th by a neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman, who was never arrested and remains free pending a federal investigation, said he'd acted in self-defense, even though he had been following Martin when he encountered him, against the instructions of a 911 dispatcher Zimmerman had called minutes before the encounter.
Supporters of Trayvon Martin's family are calling for Zimmerman's arrest. He has not been seen in recent weeks, as publicity in the case intensifies, although police say they know how to contact the 28 year-old of white and Latino descent.
Meanwhile, Rev. Sharpton expected so many people to attend Thursday night's rally that he changed its venue from a small Sanford church to a large, lakeside park in the Central Florida city of 51,000. Joining him at the rally will be one other prominent New Yorker, former governor David Paterson.
A rally with Trayvon Martin's parents in Union Square Wednesday evening inspired further protests nationwide, including a walk-out from classes Thursday at a Miami high school in Miami.
While thousands of people nationwide have done like those students and reacted with their feet, far more people are mobilizing in other ways, including the change.org petition and the Million Hoodie March online, where New Yorkers and people worldwide post pictures of themselves wearing hoodies, similar to the hooded sweatshirt Trayvon Martin pulled over his head when he realized Zimmerman was following him minutes before he was killed, according to Trayvon's girlfriend, who was on the phone with him when he struggled with Zimmerman on that fateful February day.
Miss USA 2002 posted her photo with a hoodie over her crown, and former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm tweeted a picture of herself in a hoodie, as well as thousands of others worldwide.
FBI investigators are now probing the case, and could possibly make an arrest before a grand jury takes it up. It's scheduled to convene on April 10th.