Trayvon Martin parents to join rally for slain Missouri teen

FERGUSON Mo. Sun Aug 24, 2014 5:38pm EDT

1 of 12. Parishioners pray at Greater St. Marks Missionary Baptist Church after the pastor asked for peace in the community in Ferguson, Missouri August 24, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott

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FERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The parents of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager shot dead in 2012, were expected to join the family of Michael Brown, killed by a police officer in Missouri this month, in a rally in St. Louis on Sunday to protest against police violence.

The demonstration will take place one day before the funeral of Brown, an 18-year-old black youth whose slaying by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in the town of Ferguson on Aug. 9 led to days of unrest and drew global attention to race relations in the United States.

The shooting of Martin by a civilian vigilante was one of the most high-profile incidents of racial tension in the United States in recent years, with family and supporters saying it showed the rough treatment that black youths live with.

Representatives of the Brown family said in public flyers that Martin's parents would attend the Sunday demonstration.

In Ferguson, police and demonstrators have clashed nightly for more than a week, drawing criticism of the police for mass arrests and the use of heavy-handed tactics and military gear.

The last four nights have been relatively calm, however, although shortly before midnight on Saturday, police arrested three people. The main street of Ferguson was open to traffic and the police presence was down sharply from just 24 hours earlier.

At an impromptu memorial where Brown was shot, a few people posed for photos on Sunday and fresh flowers had been laid along the street.

Steve Coyne, 52, said he drove six hours from Elkhart, Indiana, on Saturday night to pay his respects.

"I just had to come. I don't know why exactly, but I felt it so I came. I think the looting and rioting is bad, but to do nothing is worse," Coyne said after posing for a photo by the memorial.

Supporters of Wilson planned a second day of fundraising for him, with a gathering at a St. Louis sports bar where an entirely white crowd attended an event for him on Saturday.

The White House said three presidential aides would attend Brown's funeral on Monday.

Speaking on "Face the Nation" on CBS, Democratic Representative Lacy Clay of Missouri, who is due to speak at the funeral, said he had promised Brown's parents he would push for a transparent investigation into his death.

"I'm more concerned that if we do not get to the truth and get to what actually happened and bring justice to this situation, then there’s going to be a problem in the streets," he said.

A grand jury began hearing evidence on Wednesday, a process the county prosecutor said could take until mid-October.

The National Guard began a gradual withdrawal from Ferguson on Friday, but authorities remain braced for a possible flare-up of civil disturbances surrounding Brown's funeral on Monday.

Many protesters said they planned to attend the funeral to show solidarity with the Brown family.

"There are going to be thousands of us out there on Monday," said Rita Bonaparte, 40, a nurse who attended the mostly peaceful protest on Saturday. "We're all going to be there to show our support for the Brown family and their need for justice."

Tio Hardiman, executive director of an organization called Violence Interrupters, said he hoped the protests following Brown's death would make a difference.

"This should serve as a wake-up call to the police and the way they behave to black Americans across the country," he said.

(Editing by Leslie Adler)

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