The young men and women who have spent the last two weeks sleeping in the Florida state house celebrated a victory in their quest to challenge the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law when Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford announced he would hold hearings on it this fall.
The protesters, who call themselves the Dream Defenders, began demonstrating three days after George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s claims that he acted in self-defense sparked scrutiny over Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law that grants citizens the right to use lethal force in the name of self-defense. The Dream Defenders have called on leaders to call a special session of the legislature dedicated to changing the law, but Gov. Rick Scott and other state congressional leaders have refused to ask for one. Weatherford has appointed a state representative who strongly supports the law to chair the hearing.
Phillip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders, told The Miami Herald that he and his fellow protesters realize their work is not done, and that more protests will be necessary to change the law. “We know democracy takes time. Progress takes time,” he said.
Since the Dream Defenders began protesting at the state house, they have gained attention from celebrities and political leaders. Harry Belafonte and Jesse Jackson have visited with the activists, and rapper Talib Kweli plans to join them on Thursday.