Aerial footage of students in Cutler Bay in south Miami-Dade County formed a TM in support of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford. Martin, from Miami Gardens, was visiting the central Florida city with his father. Students from all over South Florida staged walkouts on Friday.
Hundreds of students at several South Florida high schools staged walkouts Friday morning in a massive protest against the lack of an arrest in the Trayvon Martin shooting.
Students from Miami Central, Miami Edison, Miami Norland, American Senior, William H. Turner High and Southridge High in Miami and Blanche Ely High School in Broward held walkouts.
Meanwhile, the walkouts got some star power when LeBron James tweeted out a photo of the Miami Heat wearing hoodies.
At Miami Central and Turner, students were seen pouring out of the school buildings and into the streets just after 9 a.m.
In Cutler Bay, at Miami Southridge High School students formed a “TM” on a field in support of Martin.
Miami-Dade Police also reported a crowd of students had congregated at Southland Mall.
Miami-Dade Schools Police spokesman Sgt. Ivan Silva said there had been no incidents reported.
“Our job is to make sure the demonstrations are being run in safe and peaceful manner,” Silva said.
Miami-Dade Police said they were helping with crowd control as well.
Broward County Public Schools spokeswoman Nadine Drew said the protests in that county were organized with the help of the school staff.
“For the most part they are being organized and are being supported by the school family as an outpouring show of support,” she said. “I think the reaction is similar to the national reaction. I don’t think our students are any different than others.”
In Miami-Dade, the school district sent out a statement saying Martin’s mother wanted students to honor him through reflection, not walkouts.
“While we respect the expression of emotion by our students, we ask that they remain focused on their education,” said Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho. “Our most important mission is to provide a safe learning environment for students, and so we are asking them to respect the wishes of Trayvon’s mother by celebrating his memory not through walkouts, but through reflection and civic participation.”
Students at Krop Senior High School, where Martin was attending when he was killed, were going to make a banner for Martin that will be signed by students.
Also on Friday, President Barack Obama called the incident a “tragedy,” saying that if he had a son, “he would look like Trayvon.” Martin’s family thanked the president in an email statement.
“We’d like to thank the president and the millions of people from around the world who have shown their support for Trayvon by participating in hoodie marches, rallies or through social media. We are all working together to not only get justice for Trayvon, but also to ensure that this kind of senseless tragedy doesn’t happen to another child.”
On Thursday, students at Miami’s Carol City High School staged a massive walkout outside the Miami Gardens school. Police said the school’s principal had approved of an on-campus demonstration but that students left school grounds.
Martin, 17, was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman on Feb. 26 in Sanford.
Martin was visiting with his father at his father’s girlfriend’s home in a gated community and had gone to buy a bag of Skittles and iced tea at a nearby convenience store and was walking back when the shooting happened.
Though Martin was unarmed, Zimmerman told police the shooting was self-defense, and no charges have been filed in the case.
Zimmerman’s attorney emerged Friday night, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview that the facts will show his client acted in self-defense.
“I’ve talked with him. He states that he is not a racist and this was not to do with the fact that Trayvon Martin was a African-American,” Orlando criminal defense attorney Craig Sonner said.
He said he has advised Zimmerman, who has gone into hiding since the shooting, to cooperate in the investigation.
In Sanford, City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. formally introduced the two men who will lead the police department for the time being in the absence of Chief Bill Lee Jr. He temporarily stepped down Thursday as he acknowledged that his role “as the leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation.”
In his place, the department will be run by Captain Darren Scott, a 22-year veteran of the Sanford police force, and Captain Robert O’Connor, who has extensive experience in investigations, intelligence-led policing and other areas, according to a statement from the city.
Bonaparte said he has “complete confidence” in the two captains.
Thursday night, the Rev. Al Sharpton held a rally in Sanford with Martin’s parents to push for Zimmerman’s arrest.
“We did not come here for a temporary leave of absence. We came for permanent justice,” Sharpton said, responding to Lee’s earlier announcement. “From top to bottom, we don’t need temporary relief. We need permanent change.”
About a half-hour into the rally, which was attended by around 8,000 people, word came that Gov. Rick Scott had appointed a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into Martin’s death.
The governor said he appointed Angela Corey, a prosecutor for the Jacksonville area, to lead the investigation after Norman Wolfinger, the state attorney for Seminole and Brevard counties, recused himself.
Scott also appointed a task force led by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll to hold hearings about the shooting and make recommendations for changing state laws and procedures.
The U.S. Justice Department and FBI are also investigating the shooting. Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, met with representatives from both departments before Thursday night’s rally to discuss the case.
Sharpton told those gathered at the rally that “Zimmerman should have been arrested that night” and that police had probable cause.
Martin’s 9th-grade teacher, Noemy Pascual, remembered him as a good student. He went to George T. Baker Aviation School two years ago, and she taught him three classes of Aerospace Technology.
“He was a normal student. He was well-behaved. He passed all the classes,” she said.
She said he left the school because he went to live with his father in Miami Gardens.
“Really, we always feel bad because to lose a young life. It’s terrible,” she said. “I told my husband ‘Oh, he was my student.”
Copyright Associated Press / NBC 6 Miami