Thousands gathered in Clearwater on Sunday as Rev. Al Sharpton called on justice for Markeis McGlockton, a father shot down last month after a dispute over a parking space. To cheers, Sharpton called on law enforcement to arrest shooter Michael Drejka.
“Lock him up or give up your badge,” Sharpton said at the event Sunday.
Pinellas County Bob Gualtieri declined to arrest McGlockton, citing the “Stand Your Ground” provision of Florida’s self-defense statute.
Sharpton said that law disproportionately hurts black communities and called on its repeal. But he also questioned why Drejka, a white man, would be given the benefit of doubt when killing a black man.
“Why stop and listen to his story?” Sharpton said. “There ain’t a story. You killed an unarmed black man who was standing up for his family.”
Camera footage of the shooting with no sound shows McGlockton pushing Drejka to the ground, then backing away when Drejka pulls out a gun. Drejka then fatally shoots Drejka.
McGlockton’s girlfriend Britany Jacobs had parked in a handicap space, which started the conflict with Drejka. Jacobs’ and McGlockton’s children were in the car.
The decision not to arrest Drejka has drawn questions from the left and right. The NAACP called on the Department of Justice to review the case. The National Rifle Association, meanwhile, said the Stand Your Ground law is being misapplied to the case.
Sharpton said conservatives who call on black men to be more involved in raising families should be angry a father defending his family would be gunned down, and the family would then be told no crime was committed.
All five major Democratic candidates for governor — Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Chris King and Jeff Greene — stood behind Sharpton at the Sunday rally and spoke to the crowd. Sharpton thanked the candidates for putting campaign differences aside for the day. Greene and Gillum also appeared today on Sharpton’s MSNBC show.
“Tomorrow they will be attacked by some of the right-wingers,” Sharpton said. “But we don’t need a weak-kneed governor. If they can’t stand with you now, then we can’t stand with them on Election Day.”
After Sharpton gave $1,000 to a collection for McGlockton’s children, Levine, Green and Gillum also contributed $1,000 and King and Graham each chipped in $2,000. Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw also contributed $1,000.
Sharpton said at the event that probable cause existed to arrest Drejka, and it should be decided in court whether Stand Your Ground applies. He also called for a repeal of the law and said he wouldn’t want his own grandchildren living in this state while the statute remains on the books.
“We cannot have a law that functions on the imagination of paranoid folk,” he said.
He also called out President Donald Trump, who visited Tampa Bay last week to rally for Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob DeSantis but failed to address the controversial shooting 45 minutes away.
“Why not address the value of human life?” Sharpton said. “You want to know why we call you a racist? You talk like a racist and you walk like a racist.”
Sharpton regularly compared the shooting to the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Shooter George Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury in 2013 based on Stand Your Ground.
Martin’s parents also spoke at the rally Sunday. “I’m fighting for Trayvon as if he is still living,” said mother Sybrina Fulton.
The event was led by Benjamin Crump, the attorney for McGlockton’s family and previously for Martin’s parents. Sharpton compared Crump to the late Johnnie Cochran.
Sharpton noted that public pressure at least forced the state to take Zimmerman to trial, and he hoped this time it could lead to Drejka’s conviction.