Protesters inside the Florida state capitol building are calling for an expanded effort to demand the governor convene a special session of the Florida Legislature to address Stand Your Ground laws and other issues following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Despite Gov. Rick Scott’s reaffirmation of his support for Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, the Dream Defenders continued to occupy the state capitol building Tuesday for the eighth day. The organizers said they will reach out to politicians, leaders, and concerned citizens across the country to participate in their own mock legislative session next week.
“When the governor finally yields to our demands and assembles a special session of the legislature, we want our representatives’ jobs to be as easy as possible,” said Ciara Taylor, Dream Defenders’ political director, in the announcement. “We will do the hard work of collecting evidence and analyzing expert testimony for them.”
Dream Defenders’ legal and policy director Ahmad Abuznaid told MSNBC.com that the protesters’ goal was to get lawmakers to enact the Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act, also known as Trayvon’s Law, to address “Stand your Ground,” racial profiling, and ending a “school-to-prison pipeline” in the state.
“Not only is ‘Stand Your Ground’ on our streets and in our communities, it’s creeping into our schools,” Abuznaid said, referencing a school bus fight in Broward County where “Stand Your Ground” played a key role.
Abuznaid argued that the group’s Trayvon’s Law proposal, which does not yet have political backing, should be a bipartisan issue especially after Republican Sen. John McCain’s remarks Sunday that “Stand Your Ground” laws should be reviewed across the nation.
“We all want to make our community safer, and we all want to end racial profiling,” Abuznaid said.
So far, the majority of public support from local lawmakers has been on one side of the aisle. Democratic state Rep. Clovis Watson, Jr. spoke at the Dream Defenders’ rally at the capitol building on Saturday and called for a repeal to “Stand Your Ground.”
“I do not believe someone should have the autonomy to take a life because they perceive danger,” Watson said.
Zimmerman pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges after shooting Martin, an unarmed black teen, in Sanford, Fla., in February 2012. He was acquitted earlier this month after claiming self-defense. Stand Your Ground laws were not used by the defense in the trial.
Florida’s Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters met with the protesters on Monday to talk about their concerns, but the protesters were not convinced.
“Even after folks have forgotten as many people do, we’ll be there with the objective of winning,” Dream Defenders’ Executive Director Phillip Agnew said on MSNBC Monday night. “So the governor can send another secretary tomorrow. He can send his chief of staff. He can dispatch any of a number of people that he thinks would listen to us, but right now, we’re calling on action.”