Quran Burning Pastor Says George Zimmerman Rally Will Go On [Exclusive]
Florida pastor says he'll call off rally only at families' request
A controversial Florida pastor says yesterday's arrest of George Zimmerman will not deter his plans for a rally in support of due process for Zimmerman and the parents of his 17-year-old victim Trayvon Martin.
Pastor Terry Jones, best known for holding a "Quran Burning Day" last year, and his 50-member congregation plans to rally in front of the Sanford courthouse on Saturday, April 21.
"We are by no means taking sides," Jones said yesterday in an interview with Loop 21. "We are by no means by our action in Sanford saying that Trayvon Martin is innocent or guilty and we are definitely not forming an opinion on George Zimmerman. We are not defending him and we are not condemning him."
Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon after a confrontation on Feb. 26, was charged yesterday with second-degree murder and turned himself in to law enforcement. The 45 days it took for Zimmerman to be charged with a crime prompted national outrage and protesting.
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Jones says his rally will be focused on insisting that the constitutional rights of both Zimmerman and the Martin family are protected. Jones has applied for a permit for the event and earlier this month black community leaders met with Justice Department officials to express concern about Jones' rally.
But Jones is firing back.
He specifically took aim at black religious leaders, who he said have sensationalized the racial element of the case and have unnecessarily drummed up emotion.
"There's a type of lynch mob mentality developing....especially with people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton," Jones said. "Especially when you are a leader... they have special responsibilities to keep the people on the ground believing in the system."
Jones appeared earlier this month at another rally in support of Zimmerman, and the accused murderer used an image from that rally on a fundraising website he launched earlier this week.
No stranger to national controversy, Jones said he can sympathize with the psychological stress Zimmerman has been under since becoming a household name.
"The pressure is enormous. It is something that most people cannot imagine." Jones said. "The family of Trayvon Martin deserves and should have all of the emotional support that they can possibly receive and at the same time George Zimmerman should also have that emotional support."
The pastor said he's had no direct contact with the legal teams representing Zimmerman and Trayvon's family, but added that if either family asked, he'd consider calling off the rally.
"If they were opposed to it, we would definitely consider (calling off the rally)." Jones said.