JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Even before the murder trial Thursday of a man accused of shooting a teenager here during a dispute over loud music, sign-waving demonstrators called for 47-year-old's conviction.
Representatives of the New Black Panther Party, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Jacksonville Progressive Coalition waved signs on the Duval County Courthouse lawn as the jury began to hear testimony in the trial of Michael David Dunn of South Patrick Shores, Fla.
Dunn faces charges of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and shooting or throwing a deadly missile in the death of Jordan Davis, 17, at a Jacksonville gas station.
"We're here to make sure that justice is served, that Michael Dunn spends the rest of his life in prison, and that there's justice for Jordan Davis who's this victim of racist vigilante violence," said Dave Schneider of the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition.
Fellow coalition member Richard Blake displayed a Justice for Jordan sign.
"What we're not going to allow is young black men to be gunned down in the city of Jacksonville, or anywhere in Florida — or anywhere in this country — without repercussions for the killer," Blake said.
Dunn grabbed a 9mm pistol from his glove box and fired two volleys of bullets at a Dodge Durango containing four black teens during a profane parking-lot argument over loud rap music, prosecutors say. The shots killed Davis and narrowly missed two other boys.
Dunn told police that he feared for his life and acted in self-defense — he thought he saw Davis raise the barrel of a shotgun above the SUV's rear-passenger window. No firearm was found at the scene, officers said.
Because Dunn is expected to use Florida's Stand Your Ground law as a defense, his race is white and his victim is black, the case has received intense scrutiny. The teen's mother has said her son was a victim of racial profiling. Davis never left the vehicle.
"We want Michael Dunn convicted and sentenced to prison for life," said Minister Mikhail Muhammad, spokesman of the New Black Panther Party's Jacksonville chapter. Muhammad had announced a $10,000 bounty in 2012 for the capture of George Zimmerman in connection with the death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.
He called on Florida State Attorney Angela Corey to "do her job this time" and convict Dunn, considering that a jury acquitted Zimmerman.
"And he will have no peace. He will have no harmony while in jail," Muhammad said of Dunn. "We're really calling for the death penalty."
Unlike the Zimmerman trial, these proceedings will not be televised, and journalists are not permitted inside the fourth-floor courtroom.
Not all of those present outside the courthouse were so strident.
"We have to be sure that we approach this with love, and not racial division and hate," said Opio Sokoni, president of the Jacksonville chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "Decent people understand that he did something wrong: He pulled up and he shot a young boy in cold blood."
"We do not hate Mr. Dunn. But we do believe justice must be served," he said.
Rick Neale also reports for Florida Today in Melbourne, Fla.