The parents of a black teenager shot to death by a Hispanic neighborhood watch captain in Florida told demonstrators in New York they will keep fighting to get justice for their son.
"My son did not deserve to die," Tracy Martin said Wednesday after thanking the hundreds of people who participated in a march in the teenager's memory, a sign of growing outrage over the shooting.
Demonstrators chanting "we want arrests" converged on Manhattan's Union Square for the Million Hoodie March.
Martin's son, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, was killed Feb. 26, in Sanford, Fla. He was returning to a gated community in the city after buying candy at a convenience store. He was unarmed and was wearing a hooded sweat shirt, called a 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.
The demonstrators greeted the teen's parents with "God bless you!"
Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother, told the crowd: "My heart is in pain, but to see the support of all of you really makes a difference."
The march splintered into various groups, with some demonstrators heading to Times Square to hold an impromptu rally and dozens of others making their way to downtown Manhattan. At times, it appeared the march had become indistinguishable from an Occupy event, with some protesters climbing atop the Wall Street bull sculpture.
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.
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said it is sending its community relations service this week to Sanford to "address tension in the community."
Earlier in the week, the federal agency opened a civil rights probe into the shooting, and in Florida, Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger said a grand jury will meet April 10 to consider evidence in the case.
Tracy Martin said he and his son's mother found out about the march after arriving in New York City, where they have done interviews about the case. They got in touch with the organizers to say they would attend and speak to the crowd.
The timing of the teen's parents being in the city when the march was happening was "incredible," said one of the organizers, Daniel Maree, who heard about the case earlier this week.
"I was outraged and wanted to do something about it," Maree said.
In recent days, information surrounding the teen's death has been coming out, including 911 calls and an account from his family's lawyer of a conversation he had with his girlfriend in the moments before his death.
Tracy Martin, asked how he was holding up, said he was trying to stay strong.
"I don't feel this is the time to break down, even though it's a very troubling time in my life," he said. "I've told myself, when I get justice for Trayvon, then I'll have my time to break down."