(Bloomberg) -- This isn’t the Florida retirement Becky Drumheller imagined back home in Pennsylvania.
She and her husband arrived March 24 in Sanford, a city about 20 miles north of Orlando consumed by the killing of Trayvon Martin, a black, unarmed 17-year-old Miami Gardens resident who was shot Feb. 26 in his father’s gated community by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman, whose mother is Hispanic and father is white, has claimed self- defense and has not been arrested, a decision that has prompted rallies across the nation, and that residents say has fractured this city of 54,000.
“There is so much negativity,” Drumheller, 63, said as a driver honked and motioned her out of the way in a shopping-mall parking lot. “It’s overwhelming.”
The Sanford City Council will hold a special meeting this afternoon at which Martin’s parents are expected to speak. In addition to the 1,200 seats at the Civic Center, where the meeting will be held, an overflow viewing area with a video screen has been set up at a nearby park.
Martin’s parents will lead an eight-block march to the Civic Center.
“The events that have recently occurred here in the city of Sanford have certainly taken a toll on everyone,” acting police Chief Darren Scott said at a news conference. Scott was appointed to the position today by City Manager Norton Bonaparte after former Chief Bill Lee stepped aside last week.
Florida to Washington
The U.S. Justice Department last week opened a civil rights inquiry into the incident. Fourteen Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking that as part of it he “explore the applicability” of the federal hate-crime statute and other federal laws.
Tomorrow, Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee will hold an unofficial hearing on Capitol Hill seeking to bring attention to the Justice Department probe of the shooting.
The forum starts at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Matt Morgan, a spokesman for Representative John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the panel, said in an e-mail today. Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, will testify, said Ryan Julison, a family spokesman.
Force Meets Force
The Congressional Black Caucus, which has been calling for formal hearings to probe the shooting, will hold briefings this week to “raise the level of awareness around the country about hate crimes and racial profiling,” Representative Barbara Lee, a California Democrat and former caucus chairwoman, said today in a statement.
Representative Xavier Becerra of California, a member of the Democratic leadership, said it was “incomprehensible” how long it took for Florida leaders to act after the shooting.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson, the civil rights activist, has advocated a voter-registration drive with the aim of electing officials who would repeal Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
Local officials said the law, which relieves a citizen of responsibility to retreat when he feels threatened in a public place and gives him the right to “meet force with force,” prevented them from making an arrest after Zimmerman killed Martin. The teenager was walking to his father’s home after buying Skittles candy and an iced tea from a convenience store.
Suspended From School
The Orlando Sentinel, citing “authorities” whom it didn’t name, reported today that Martin attacked Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk. That matches the account that Zimmerman gave police and was corroborated by eyewitnesses, the newspaper reported.
Julison, the Martin family spokesman, said today that the teenager was in Sanford because he was suspended from school last month for having a baggie that contained marijuana residue in his book bag. The family believes the suspension had nothing to do with the killing, he said.
Scott today urged patience for residents who want a “quick and positive resolution in this tragic event.”
“We do have a system in place, a legal system,” he said. “It may not be perfect, but it’s the only one we have.”
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