(CNN) — What began as an online protest over the controversial case of an alleged rape of a then-14-year-old girl became a street demonstration Tuesday night as hundreds of protesters gathered in a small Missouri town demanding “Justice for Daisy.”
It was the first physical protest since the case launched a social media fervor driven by online activist group Anonymous.
A few relatives of the alleged victim cried as people gathered, telling CNN they were glad to see some people in Maryville, a town of 12,000 residents, finally supporting the girl.
Daisy Coleman says a teenage boy raped her in 2012 when she was 14. Coleman’s mother, Melinda, says that after her daughter’s alleged assault, her children received threats. Melinda Coleman was also fired from her job as a veterinarian at a clinic.
The Colemans have since moved from the town in northwest Missouri, about 100 miles north of Kansas City.
In April, their house in Maryville — which had been vacant and for sale — burned.
Some of the protesters who came to the rally on Tuesday were out-of-towners who were so moved by the case they drove several hours to attend. They said they were hopeful that the rally would inspire a wider conversation about rape and rape victims.
Melinda Coleman, who was not at the rally, said she was heartened to hear so many people had gathered in support of her daughter. She held back tears of her own as she told CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront”: “I think it’s a wonderful sentiment and I’m really touched … and happy.”
She said she is ecstatic the case has been reopened after a special prosecutor was appointed Monday.
“I think that just the fact that we’re being heard and we’re getting a chance at justice is huge. All we’ve ever wanted was to have some justice,” she said, adding that she has yet to meet with the new prosecutor.
In an interview with Erin Burnett last week, Daisy Coleman described leaving her house during a sleepover and going with a boy who was later charged with sexual assault. The charges against Matthew Barnett, 17 at the time of the incident, were subsequently dropped.
A lawyer for Barnett said last week that his client cooperated with authorities and admitted he had sex with Daisy.
“While many find Matt Barnett’s behavior reprehensible, the legal issue was whether a crime was committed,” Robert Sundell said in the statement.
Daisy Coleman’s friend, Paige — who says she was raped by a different boy that same night — had her case settled in juvenile court.
CNN does not typically identify alleged victims of sexual assault but has done so in this case because Paige, Daisy and her mother have chosen to go public. CNN has agreed to identify Paige by just her first name.
On Monday, a new special prosecutor promised to review the case “without fear and without favor.”
“I know that this case has raised a variety of concerns in northwest Missouri, so please know this: This case will be thoroughly reviewed,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said.
A judge appointed Baker as special prosecutor days after a different prosecutor, who dropped charges, said he’d request the move.
The initial prosecutor, Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert L. Rice, has said he dropped a sexual assault charge against the boy because the girl and her relatives refused to cooperate.
“There was insufficient evidence to prove a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said in a statement.
A charge against the boy’s friend who was accused of recording part of the incident on an iPhone was also discontinued.
But the case got new life this month after The Kansas City Star featured it and CNN interviewed Daisy and her mother.