At the lakeside park, hundreds of rally-goers streamed in Thursday as the humid night buzzed with electricity and anticipation.
Television news helicopters droned over a domino-line of satellite trucks. Spontaneously, pockets of people erupted into chants demanding justice for slain teenager Trayvon Martin.
The few police officers visible carried badges not of the Sanford Police Department but of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol. But the crowd, boisterous and spirited, didn’t need policing.
A familiar Miami face, the Rev. Richard Dunn, strolled up the rolling lawn just yards from Lake Monroe. He drove up to the Orlando suburb Thursday with several supporters.
“Its a blessing to see the multi-ethnic people here in support of good,” he said. “Let’s be clear: This is blatant murder. The color of the skin does nor matter. What is right is what matters.”
As the sky turned orange at Fort Mellon Park, just down the way from the historic brick-lined streets of downtown Sanford, the casual observer could cover his ears, look at the signs and quickly printed T-shirts, and know what brought Dunn here.
One sign, scrawled in marker: “Pray, protest, but get armed!” “Chief, you are a temporary joke!” read another, poking fun at Sanford Police Chief Brian Lee, who temporarily stepped down because of the outcry over his department’s handling of Trayvon’s shooting.
Dozens of T-shirts showed Trayvon’s photo next to that of Emmett Till, the black Alabama teen slain in 1955 after he flirted with a white girl.
Shirts and poster boards showed the black-and-white booking mugs of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, 28, the man who fatally shot Trayvon last month. He claimed self-defense, and has not been arrested.