Groups credit public for Zimmerman charges

Civil rights group leaders say outcry led to further investigation

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A day after George Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, civil rights group leaders are crediting the public for pushing lawmakers and law enforcement to take action.

As special prosecutor Angela Corey announced the murder charge Wednesday, she stressed pressure from the public did not play a role in her investigation.

Some civil rights group leaders say the case wouldn't have been investigated at all if it weren't for public pressure.

"For three weeks, nothing happened after Trayvon's death," said Isaiah Rumlin, president of the Jacksonville branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "But when social media and demonstration began and the pressure was put on the governor to appoint a special prosecutor, at that point, you saw the wheel of justice begin to turn."

Thousands of people rallied around the case, marching in Sanford, in Jacksonville and around the state and country.

"Public pressure brought about this new thorough investigation, not the charges necessarily, but that there would be a more thorough investigation," said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Race and Florida's "stand your ground" law was at the heart of the debate.

"It just reminds us of where we've been, where we've come and how much further we need to go as its related to relationships in this country and equal justice," said Pastor R.L. Gundy, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The Jacksonville Community Council Inc. has done extensive studies on race for a number of years. Officials say no matter what side people are on, it's about perception.

"People's perceptions are guided by their own personal experiences, history and heritage, and because of that, we will look at the same incident, and it doesn't matter what the incident is, and we will see it with different eyes," said Ben Warner, president and CEO of JCCI.

Local civil rights groups leaders say they'll be watching the case closely and hope to be part of the task force scheduled to study the stand your ground law.

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