MELBOURNE, Fla. -- A vigil in Palm Bay to mark the life of Trayvon Martin was canceled Tuesday because of safety concerns just hours before it was scheduled to start.
According to a statement from event sponsor Fathers Stand Up, concerns that the event might have been taken out of context by the community were part of the reason for canceling the vigil.
Event organizer John P. Francois, founder of Fathers Stand Up, said there was "a lot of stuff that I heard that might occur" during the vigil, which was set for 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at Palm Bay City Hall. He said he canceled because, "I don't want to see anybody get hurt on my watch."
Martin, 17, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in a Sanford, Fla., neighborhood on Feb. 26, 2012. Zimmerman was not immediately charged, but later was accused of second-degree murder in a case that has received intense media coverage and public interest.
Martin would have turned 18 on Tuesday.
Francois declined to give more details of the alleged statements that led him to stop the event, but he said they came from three different sources. He said he did not consider them threats and did not plan to get police involved, but he went ahead and canceled anyway.
"I'd rather be safe than sorry," he said.
One Palm Bay man showed up for the event, not knowing it had been canceled.
"Why do it? One of our kids got killed," Warren Lundquist said. "Besides, I'm anti-gun too."
Francois said the Palm Bay event was not meant to promote any position but rather to remember the life of the slain teen.
"You have some people that stand behind George Zimmerman, then you have people who are really saddened by a young teen getting killed," he said. "To me, to Fathers Stand Up, it's about the teen not being here anymore.
"All it was going to be was a lighting of candles, happy birthday Trayvon Martin, rest in peace."
Fathers Stand Up Corp. is seeking nonprofit designation. The group's mission is to reunify fathers and families and strengthen the community by supporting families. Fathers Stand Up was involved with local vigils immediately after the death of Martin, at which Francois said there were no problems.
Francois said he would plan another vigil, though next time he would arrange for security or seek a protective police presence.
"Next time, I'm going to be more prepared," he said.
Stacey Barchenger, Florida Today