The parents of an unarmed black teenager shot to death by a Latino neighborhood watch captain in Florida made a vow to the demonstrators assembled at a New York City rally.
They promised to fight fervently for justice for Trayvon Martin, and not stop until it is served.
“Trayvon Martin was you, Trayvon Martin did matter,” said his father, Tracy Martin, over a megaphone, to the hundreds of people who participated in the “Million Hoodie March” in the teenager's memory in Union Square.
“My son did not deserve to die.”
Under metallic skies Wednesday, the parents spoke as chants of “I am Trayvon Martin” echoed from the crowd. The demonstrators, mostly minorities, reacted the parents' words with cries of “Shame! Shame!” and “We want arrests!”
This is not about a black or a white thing, this is about a right or wrong thing.
Martin's son, 17-year-old Trayvon, was killed Feb. 26, in Sanford, Fla.
The teen was returning to a gated community in the city after engaging in the most mundane of things -- buying Skittles and an iced tea at a convenience store. He was unarmed and was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, or hoodie.
The neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, has not been charged in the shooting. Zimmerman has said the teen attacked him and he shot him in self-defense.
“Our son was not committing any crime - our son was your son,” said Sybrina Fulton, the youth's mother. “My heart is in pain, but to see the support from all of you really makes a difference.”
Trayvon Martin’s case has stirred civil rights activists across the country into action, and raised new questions in the debate over the Second Amendment.
Florida police said Monday that they may have missed a racial slur that Zimmerman uttered during the 911 call minutes before the shooting.
“I feel explosive," said Oz Agu, 21, an American student originally from Nigeria who was at the rally. "I feel betrayed by my country. I feel like history is repeating itself.”
“Our government is trash,” Candice Eawadi told Fox News Latino. “Our minority community and our poor community don’t have support.”
Zimmerman is Hispanic; his family has said he is not racist. Many who want to see Zimmerman prosecuted for the shooting death say it was racist because, as they see it, the sole color of the youth's skin seemed to set the man's actions in motion.
The tragedy has also led to debates about whether it could have been a racist -- or bias -- act when it involves a minority dying at the hands of another minority. (Hispanics, an ethnic term, may be of any race.)
“Zimmerman does look Hispanic, but whether he is black, Hispanic or whatever we need justice for this kid,” said Yesenia Rosa, 34 and mother of a biracial seven year-old son. “As a mother raising a child who is half Haitian these are my worries. I’m worried about if my son is going to be the next Martin.”
“Racism is not the issue, but racism is the problem,” said Kirk Patrick, as he held photos and Skittles in honor of Trayvon Martin. “It’s going to happen again -- it ain’t going to stop. Sixty years ago, they were wearing a mask -- right now they are not even wearing a mask and they are killing off our young black presidents. Stop it please -- let’s all get along.”
Similar frustrations were felt by other demonstrators who chanted “Protect and serve, that’s a lie, they don’t care if black kids die!”
At first, the march looked indistinguishable from an Occupy Movement protest as demonstrators chanted “No Justice. No Peace,” held up Occupy signs, and banged on drums.
Organizers for the march intended to walk from Union Square throughout downtown New York to the United Nations in honor of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
But the group splintered into two smaller movements within an hour after the parents spoke. The larger group ended the night in Times Square.
Ravi Ahmad, who is 34 and one of the organizers of the march and a member of the Occupy Movement, said Occupy is showing its support, but that it is part of “hundreds” involved.
The Florida shooting has ignited a furor against the police department of the Orlando suburb of 53,500 people, prompting rallies and a protest in Gov. Rick Scott's office on Tuesday.
Sanford city commissioners on Wednesday voted 3-2 to express "no confidence" in Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. over the handling of the fatal shooting. The commission can't fire Lee, however, because the police chief reports to the city manager. Many critics of the police say they were too quick to accept Zimmerman's version of events and statement that he felt threatened by Martin.
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said it is sending its community relations officials this week to Sanford to "address tension in the community."
But in Manhattan, at the rally the message was clear from Trayvon Martin’s distraught mother.
“This is not about a black or a white thing," she said. "This is about a right or wrong thing. Justice for Trayvon."
Contact Bryan Llenas on Twitter @Bryan_Llenas.
Contains limited reporting by the Associated Press.