Sanford Police Department reopens after Trayvon Martin protest

Arrest of George Zimmerman sought in fatal Sanford shooting

Students protest at the Sanford Police Department.
Students protest at the Sanford Police Department.

SANFORD, Fla. – A group of students protesting the Trayvon Martin shooting on Monday blocked the entrance to the Sanford Police Department by kneeling in front of the doors, forcing the department to close. It has since been reopened.

No arrests were made in the protest, which came a day after the students, who call themselves the Dream Defenders, completed a 40-mile, three-day march from Daytona Beach to Sanford, where Martin, 17, was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in late February.

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City officials and members of the U.S. Department of Justice observed the demonstration, which consisted of a handful of students -- some wearing hoodies -- blocking the entrance, with dozens of others standing nearby.

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

Special prosecutor Angela Corey, who announced earlier Monday that she will not bring the case before a grand jury, spoke to the students via a conference call.  Corey asked the students for patience and ensured that she is conducting a fair investigation.

After speaking with Corey, Bonaparte and other officials Monday afternoon, the students left the police station.  Sanford officials said the closing had a minimal effect on police and fire responses to emergency calls. Citizens who needed to do routine police business were told to go to Sanford City Hall.

City officials told the group of protesters that it would hold another town hall meeting to further address the shooting on April 19.

The Dream Defenders said they are composed of a diverse array of young leaders from across the country with one common goal -- to work in solidarity to incite generational change and make global impact.

On Sunday night, the nearly 50 students made a call for non-violent civil disobedience while speaking at the Allen Chapel AME Church in Sanford.

The students demanded Zimmerman's arrest, an overhaul of the justice system and the ouster of elected officials.

"Do you know who (your elected officials) are?" asked Dream Defender and Florida A&M student, Ciara Taylor.  "I bet you do now.  I bet you didn't know they would stand by idly while George Zimmerman has been on the loose for 40 days."
Martin's mom, Sybrina Fulton, spoke to the students via cellphone.
"This is not only about Trayvon, this is about your future as well, and we just want to say thank you.  We really appreciate you," said Fulton.

The Dream Defenders took Fulton's gratitude to heart as they passionately demanded a revolution.

"If Dr. (Martin Luther) King were alive today, he would know that his dream has not come true," said Stetson University student Jelissa Conway. "Because if it had, we would not have to be here and Trayvon Martin would still be alive."

Sanford police said Zimmerman, 28, shot and killed Martin, who was wearing a hoodie and carrying a bag of Skittles, an iced tea and his cellphone, during a confrontation.  Zimmerman said he shot the teen in self-defense after Martin punched him and slammed his head against the sidewalk. 

Zimmerman has not been arrested or charged, prompting numerous marches and rallies across the country.  Florida's "stand your ground law," which allows someone to meet "force with force," has also come under fire.

Zimmerman is currently in hiding, according to his attorneys.

It remains unclear when Corey will announce her decision on whether charges will be filed in the case.

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