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Civil Rights groups to hold local rally in support of Michael Brown

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- For the past week protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, have been showing their outrage and frustration over the officer-involved shooting of teenager Michael Brown. But concerns about use of deadly force by the police are not limited to people in Missouri.

 

The issue is one that echoes well beyond Ferguson. And after the most recent shooting of an unarmed African-American, people of all races from around the country are coming together to say enough is enough.

"No more killing of black kids by police,” says Bryan Ellis of the Answer Coalition. “Were not going to take it anymore."

The “Answer” in the coalition’s name stands for “Act Now to Stop War and Racism,” and the organization is taking a stand here on the Suncoast.

"Every 28 hours a black man is the United States is killed by police or vigilantes and this is unacceptable,” Ellis says. “This is why we are taking action and we are going into the streets to try to raise awareness."

Ellis says the group’s actions will be highlighted Saturday, when many in the community gather for a rally against the recent shootings near St. Louis and other instances of police using what some feel is excessive force in the line of duty.

"We want to stand in solidarity with the people in Ferguson, and we also want to say that we still demand justice for what happened to Rodney Mitchell in 2012," Ellis says.

Mitchell was shot and killed by Sarasota County Sheriff's deputies during a traffic stop in 2012. The department says the shooting was the result of Mitchell failing to follow the deputy’s orders, but that story conflicts with eyewitness accounts of the incident.

For many the rally is an opportunity to point out the larger problem of police profiling.

"They're stereotyping,” says resident Dennis Ford. “They see a black man like me, I look like a dope boy or whatever you call it, but I’m not. I work everyday."

Ford says the rash of police shootings is the result of a lack of training -- a sentiment that the attorney representing Michael Brown’s family echoes.

"You still have a disconnect between authority figures and quasi-authority figures who, for whatever reason, profile young African-Americans, especially man, as being a threat," says Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump.

Crump says the solution is more training for police in cultural sensitivity as well as the use of force.

Meanwhile, local Pastor Kelvin Lumpkin says progress is being made with community policing here on the Suncoast.

"The SPD or the Sheriff’s Department, here we've been able to build great relationship with both of those agencies,” he says. “I think we are making strides.”