Marisha A. Daniels

The Akron community has joined the national furor over the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed African-American teenager followed and fatally shot last month by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida.

“I can relate to how he must have felt,” said Carolyn Boykin, one of several hundred people who gathered at Hawkins Plaza on Tuesday evening in support of the boy’s family.

“I have been chased before because I was black, growing up in the civil rights movement in the ’60s,” said Boykin, 53, of Akron. “I can imagine how he felt being chased down like an animal, knowing you have done nothing wrong.

“It is a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.”

Martin, 17, died Feb. 26 in a gated neighborhood in Sanford, Fla., where he was staying at the home of his father’s fiancée.

The boy was walking home after buying Skittles and a can of iced tea from a neighborhood store. He was shot in the chest by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain who told a 911 operator that he was following Martin because he looked like a “suspicious guy.”

Zimmerman said he shot Martin after being attacked by the teenager. Sanford police did not arrest Zimmerman, citing Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law that states a person may use deadly force in self-defense.

The decision not to pursue charges sparked protests across the nation by critics who argued Martin was unarmed and never should have been followed by Zimmerman.

“The police told him to leave it alone and not to follow him that is why people are upset,” said Akron City Councilman Mike Williams, who spoke at the rally. “I have a son, like President Obama said, it could have been my son.

“What happened to Trayvon is a parent’s worst nightmare.”

Williams told the crowd at the rally that African-Americans are too often stereotyped and targeted because of their race.

“We need to challenge this and educate others who have not had our life experience as to what this incident means to us,” he said.

Many of those gathered at the rally were dressed in hoodies — what Martin was wearing the night he died — and carried Skittles and iced tea.

The rally was sponsored by the Akron chapter of the NAACP.

“We are here to show that the Akron community and Summit County is supporting the Martin family,” said Ophelia Averitt, president of the Akron NAACP.

Averitt criticized the Florida “stand-your-ground” law.

“They have to repeal that law,” she said. “It’s a bad thing.”

Several area ministers called on supporters to demand action from Angela Corey, the Florida state attorney who was assigned to oversee the investigation of Martin’s death.

They said information on how to contact Corey is available from the Second Baptist Church, 690 S. Main St., 330-762-6879.