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Civil-rights leaders from NAACP, other groups lead thousands in march to demand arrest in Trayvon Martin case

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Demonstrators hold signs aloft as they march during an NAACP march and rally to the Sanford Police Department for Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., March 31. Sanford is the town where Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot dead on Feb. 26 after George Zimmerman, 28, a Hispanic neighborhood watch captain, believed the young man walking through the gated community in a hooded sweatshirt looked suspicious.

Brian Blanco / EPA

Civil rights activist the Reverend Al Sharpton center, civil rights activist the Reverend Jesse Jackson, right, and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Ben Jealous, left, brief the media before joining residents and rally attendees in a march through the streets of the Goldsboro neighborhood of Sanford, Fla., March 31. Reports state that the gathering is a protest against the Sanford Police Department's failure to arrest the man accused of killing 17 year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012. Police say Martin was unarmed when he was shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

With gospel music playing in the background, protesters were marching from a technical high school campus on 13th Street through a predominantly black neighborhood to the Sanford Police Station several blocks away. The throng stretched for blocks, weaving past homes, churches and small businesses, many of them boarded up.

The rally was organized by the NAACP. Its chapters from South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama arranged buses to bring participants to the rally, while others traveled by car.

"Because of the age of the young man and because of the circumstances of his death, every community can identify with that," said Bernard Simelton, president of the Alabama state conference of the NAACP. "We've had things like that happen in Alabama where somebody gets killed and the police just sweep it under the rug. It just touches everyone."

-- Reported by NBC News, msnbc.com staff and news services

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Trayvon Martin supporters march through the historically African American community of Goldsboro on their way to an NAACP rally in front of the Sanford Police Department on March 31, in Sanford, Fla.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Demonstrators march during an NAACP march and rally for Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., March 31.