Baltimore efforts under way to rally support for Trayvon Martin

As the nation watches the fallout from the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old unarmed Florida teen, many Baltimoreans are voicing concern.

Among those intervening locally is Jamal Bryant, pastor of the Empowerment Temple, a large church in Baltimore, and former Mayor Kurt Schmoke, now dean of the Howard University School of Law.


They have joined a growing network of civil rights leaders and others banding together to raise questions — and, in some cases, voice outrage — about potential racism in the teen's death. Martin was black.

George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who is Hispanic, shot Martin in a Feb. 26 shooting in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman, who has not been arrested, said he had acted in self-defense, according to news reports.


The Miami Herald reports that Bryant said at a recent rally, "This is a wake-up call for the state of Florida! We are going to shut Florida down until justice weighs down!"

Another protest is planned for Monday at a Sanford city council meeting, according to the newspaper. Black leaders said they would rally 1,000 people or more if charges were not filed in the case. A Seminole County, Fla., grand jury, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating, according to the NAACP.

Schmoke, Baltimore's former mayor, told NBC-4 in Washington that the Howard University community wants to help.

"We simply wanted to offer our condolences, and then our offer of assistance to the lawyers," Schmoke told the station. "We could help with not only the investigation, but more importantly looking at the law."

Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the National NAACP, which is based in Baltimore, joined others in demanding that Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. be replaced. The Orlando Sentinel reported today that Lee has temporarily stepped down.

"My role as the leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation," Lee said in a statement. "It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process.

"Therefore, I have come to the decision that I must temporarily relieve myself from the position as police chief for the city of Sanford," he continued. "I do this in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to a city which has been in turmoil for several weeks."

Jealous said in a statement, "The NAACP's number one concern in this case remains securing the arrest, prosecution and conviction of George Zimmerman. We are cautiously pleased that Chief Lee has stepped aside for his failure to assure Mr. Zimmerman was arrested.


"Any chief who would so allow his officers to so mishandle a situation like this has no place in law enforcement. At the end of this investigation it will be clear that his temporary removal should be made permanent."