They came by the busload from Atlanta. They came by the carload from throughout Central Florida and the rest of the state. They came wearing hoodies. They carried signs. And Skittles.
They came seeking justice for Trayvon Martin.
An estimated 8,000 people gathered at Fort Mellon Park in Sanford on Thursday night to join their voices with a purpose and to hear the Rev. Al Sharpton give one of his trademark impassioned speeches.
Sharpton, an MSNBC commentator, civil-rights activist and founder of the National Action Network, took the podium nearly an hour into the rally and stirred the crowd.
"Twenty-six days ago, this young man Trayvon Martin ... went to the store for his brother. He came back and lost his life," Sharpton told the cheering crowd. "Trayvon represents a reckless disregard for our lives."
Sharpton said he was angry at the handling of this case, and frustrated that George Zimmerman, the crime-watch volunteer who shot Trayvon, had not been arrested.
"Enough is enough," Sharpton said. "Zimmerman should have been arrested that night. You cannot defend yourself against a pack of Skittles and iced tea."
Sharpton then introduced Trayvon's parents: his mother, Sybrina Fulton, and father, Tracy Martin.
Fighting back tears, and looking scared and nervous, Fulton started with a Bible verse.
"I stand before you today not knowing how I'm walking right now because my heart hurts for my son," Fulton said. "Trayvon is my son. Trayvon is your son. Thanks so much for your support."
Tracy Martin described his son as a "people's person" who did not deserve to die.
Then Sharpton pressed the crowd to raise money for Trayvon's cause.
"I'm going to start off with $2,500," Sharpton said, holding up a check. "Who's next?"
Then Sharpton announced that television personality Judge Greg Mathis donated $10,000.
Several elected Florida officials were present, and each took a turn addressing the crowd before Sharpton was scheduled to speak. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown was one of the first to address the crowd Thursday night. She rallied the crowd by yelling, "I want an arrest, I want a trial."
The she asked the crowd: "What do you want?"
And the crowd responded, "We want an arrest!"
Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett pledged to the crowd that he was committed to finding justice in Trayvon's slaying.
"We're truly working on the right steps, I feel, right now," Triplett said. "The true point right now is to find justice."
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