Inside the New Birth Baptist Church Wednesday night the Rev. Al Sharpton preached the gospel to the faithful at a civil rights revival. But it didn’t take him long to shift his message from religion to politics, as he made the case that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law should be repealed.
“Let me tell you something – most laws are created to stop violence. Stand Your Ground is the only law I've ever heard of that encourages violence,” he said.
Earlier Sharpton, whose National Action Network is holding a three-day revival and conference at the northwest Miami-Dade church, broadcast his nationwide talk radio show from its lobby.
Sharpton is squarely focused on voting out Florida lawmakers who support Stand Your Ground. He notes that Florida was the nation's first state with such a law.
“We clearly must start in Florida where this case was. Stand Your Ground was not even tried in the case, yet the juror said we deliberated on Stand Your Ground,” Sharpton said.
He was referring to the trial of George Zimmerman, who was found not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, who said he acted in self-defense, did not use the Stand Your Ground defense during the trial, but wording from the law was included in the jury instructions.
Martin's father Tracy appeared in Washington Wednesday, speaking at the first-ever meeting of the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys. He told the audience that while a painful tragedy for his family, he believes that something positive can come out of his son's death and his family again is calling for a change in Stand Your Ground laws.
Martin's father brought his message of hope to Congress and told the audience on Capitol Hill, "We won't let this verdict sum up who Trayvon was."
Tracy Martin said that the foundation started to honor his son has a big job in front of it. He told caucus members that one of the foundation's missions is to address Stand Your Ground laws in Florida and their impact on minority communities.
"We are going to advocate against senseless crime – against senseless gun violence. We're going to have mentoring programs. We want to try to educate our communities on the Florida statutes – on the Florida laws – that really we need to understand how these laws apply to ourselves," said Martin.
Martin also said that his son's death need not be in vain stating, "A lot of people will tell you that nothing positive can come out of death but I disagree. And I disagree wholeheartedly. Because it is what we can do tomorrow as a nation, as a people to stop someone else's child from being killed."
U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, the congresswoman from his district, echoed the same message saying, "This is so important. And Trayvon's murder has brought this to the forefront. Trayvon will go down in history as the martyr who brought to the forefront the causes – the struggles – the suffering of African American boys."
The jury found Zimmerman not guilty in Martin's death earlier this month.
The attorney for the Martin family asked the members of Congress for their help in bringing federal charges against Zimmerman, however. The family also wants the Florida Stand Your Ground law amended so that an aggressor will not be able to use the law.