Sharpton Vows to 'Occupy' Sanford, Fla., Over Easter
ABC News' Chris Francescani reports:
The Rev. Al Sharpton will camp out with protesters in front of City Hall in Sanford, Fla., over Easter weekend as part of a nationwide call for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the volunteer neighborhood watch captain who shot 17-year old Trayvon Martin in February, he told ABC News.
"We're going to have a full blown occupation of Sanford with tents and everything over Easter weekend until [authorities] either arrest George Zimmerman, or arrest us for praying for his arrest," Sharpton said.
The civil rights leader and MSNBC talk show host said he'd be urging supporters of the cause across the country to wear "hoodies instead of Easter outfits to church on Easter Sunday." Sharpton said he will camp out "from Good Friday through Easter Sunday."
The Easter weekend occupation is part of a wave of civil disobedience that Sharpton and other leaders are organizing to ratchet up pressure on authorities to arrest Zimmerman. Craig Sonner, an attorney advising Zimmerman, has said that he is in hiding, but has been in contact with police.
Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, will join Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, pro football players Ray Lewis and Santonio Holmes and others at a rally in front of Sanford City Hall today prior to a Sanford city commission meeting. Thousands are expected to turn out. Sanford's police chief stepped down temporarily last week following a 3-2 vote of no confidence from the commission.
Sharpton and Martin's parents met with members of a special prosecutor's team this morning, and they are planning to address the commission at its weekly meeting later today.
A series of rallies in support of the Martin family's cause is scheduled today in major U.S. cities including Detroit, Iowa City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Houston, Washington D.C, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Eatonville, Fla. Tens of thousands of protesters have rallied around the country in recent days as the controversy has grown.
On Saturday, the militant New Black Panther Party offered a $10,000 bounty for Zimmerman's "capture." On Friday, members of the Miami Heat basketball team dispatched Twitter pictures showing team members wearing "hoodies" in solidarity with the family of Martin, who was wearing the popular hooded jacket when he was shot.
The Sanford Police Department declined to press charges against Zimmerman after their initial investigation, saying there was not sufficient evidence to challenge Zimmerman's claim that he was attacked by Martin and acted in self-defense. Florida's controversial "stand your ground" gun laws allow for the use of deadly force is a person believes their lives are in imminent danger.
A special prosecutor is investigating the case, and a grand jury is scheduled to begin hearing evidence in the case on April 10.