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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The father of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teen shot dead by a neighborhood watch captain in Florida, said on Wednesday he would join A Million Hoodies March in New York to demand justice for his slain son who "didn't deserve to die this evil way."
Tracy Martin said he and Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, would join the crowd but would not wear hooded sweatshirts like the one their 17-year-old son wore when he was killed last month in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, by watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
That is because they did not pack any for their trip to speak with talk show hosts about the shooting, Tracy Martin said.
The incident has drawn national attention and sparked debate over Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law since Zimmerman, 28, has claimed self-defense in the fatal shooting. The police have declined to arrest him.
"I think it is great that the people in New York have passion and that the people of New York are tired of people being stereotyped," Tracy Martin told Reuters.
"I'm just in awe that they are standing behind this cause 100 percent," said Martin, whose girlfriend's home is in the gated community where his son died after a trip to the store for candy.
Organizer Daniel Maree said the rally in Union Square Park, north of Greenwich Village, was intended to "put pressure on whoever it takes to charge George Zimmerman and prosecute him."
"Everyone who attends this rally is conscious of an epidemic in our society of young African-American people being targeted in our society," Maree said.
On February 26, Trayvon Martin was walking back to the gated community in Sanford when he was seen by Zimmerman. Zimmerman called Sanford Police to report a suspicious person in the neighborhood and then, while armed with a handgun, followed the teen despite the police dispatcher telling him not to.
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the FBI said on Monday that they had opened an investigation into the shooting. A state grand jury was also being convened.
Police have turned the case over to prosecutors, citing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, enacted in 2006 and now in effect in about 20 other states. The law provides a shooter with wide latitude to claim a killing was in self-defense.
More than 818,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org, a social action website, calling for Zimmerman's arrest.
In the hours before the rally, Tracy Martin recalled one of the last conversations he had with his son, a discussion about love.
"I told him just think about the letters that are in the word love," recalled Martin. "I told him L stands for love. O stands for over. The V stands for violence, and the E stands for evil. And I just said love over violence and evil. My son was a good kid and he didn't deserve to die this evil way."
Additional reporting by Barbara Liston; Editing By Barbara Goldberg and Paul Thomasch