Trayvon Martin: Sanford police department shut down to public

By Rene Stutzman and Bianca Prieto,  Orlando Sentinel

Sanford official have shut down the Sanford Police Department to the public today after Trayvon Martin protesters blocked entrance into the building.

“The city of Sanford hopes the actions of the students will be as peaceful and orderly as the previous rallies and marches have been,” City Manager Norton Bonaparte, Jr. said in an email to the Orlando Sentinel. “We want to be accommodating to all our visitors proving they act in a manner that is respectful to the people of the city.”

Officials said the demonstration “will have minimal effect on police and fire response to emergency calls.”

Sanford City Hall at 300 N. Park Ave. will serve as the alternate site for the public.

The shutdown is the first result of the Dream Defenders’ act of non-violent civil disobedience planned today. The Dream Defenders are a coalition of college students from across Florida who have marched and protested against the handling of the case by police.
Six protesters, some dressed in hoodies, have been huddled near the Police Department entrance since 10 a.m. while the others are in the shade, singing songs, eating snacks, and drinking bottled water.

The Dream Defenders contend investigators made no serious effort to find evidence to arrest George Zimmerman — the neighborhood watch volunteer to who killed 17-year-old Trayvon in February.

The group has called for Zimmerman’s arrest, the firing of police Chief Bill Lee Jr., the creation of a racially diverse police department review board, and a “nationally broadcasted Congressional forum on eliminating racial inequalities in the U. S.”

Phillip Agnew, a student and member of the Dream Defenders demonstrators who is not blocking the doors, said the protesters likely will remain at the Police Department until 5 p.m.

Members of the U.S. Department of Justice also are at the scene observing the protesters.

Police officers inside and outside the building, including Acting Police Chief Darren Scott, watched the protesters, but did not interfere with their demonstration.

Commissioner Velma Williams, an outspoken critic of the police department’s investigation into the shooting; and Turner Clayton Jr., president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, are also watching the protesters.

Members of the Dream Defenders on Friday started their 40-mile march from Daytona Beach to the police department. Earlier this morning the group gathered at nearby Allen Chapel AME church on Olive Avenue.

The non-violent protest is in conjunction with a national day of silence, according to the website.

“We will not stop until Zimmerman is arrested, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee and Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. are permanently removed from office,” the group’s website states.

They also ask for a “full investigation into the handling of the Trayvon Martin murder by local law enforcement and the state attorney, and the immediate prosecution of those found to have committed any wrong doing.”

Organizers want Governor Rick Scott to call a special legislative session to address their perception of racial inequality in Florida. The marchers planned to create a list of demands during their 40-mile march.

The group said it also plans to march and protest in Tallahassee, Charlotte, N.C. and New York.

“We’re all in this together, no one else can do this but us,” the website said. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

Trayvon, a black 17-year-old Miami resident, was killed Feb. 26 while walking to a relative’s home in a gated Sanford community. Zimmerman, 28, spotted the teen, who was wearing a hoodie, and called police to report a suspicious person in the area.

Police dispatchers told Zimmerman not to follow the teen, but at some point Zimmerman and Trayvon had a confrontation. Zimmerman told police he shot the teen in self defense.

Officers questioned Zimmerman, but did not arrest him. He has not been charged with a crime.

This is a developing breaking news story. Check back for more information.

bprieto@tribune.com or 407-420-5620.

One response to “Trayvon Martin: Sanford police department shut down to public

  1. Pingback: America Under Fire « clarkcountycriminalcops

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