‘Dream Defenders’ Stick Out Another Weekend at the Florida Capitol

A group of young people have spent two weeks in the Florida Capitol urging the governor to call a special session to repeal the state's 'Stand Your Ground.' (Photo by Werthmedia)

A group of young people have spent two weeks in the Florida Capitol urging the governor to call a special session to repeal the state’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. (Photo by Werthmedia)

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

A group of protesters in Tallahassee known as the “Dream Defenders” spent another weekend at the Capitol.

The peaceful sit-in began two weeks ago after George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, was found not guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter.

The protesters, who are mostly college students, are asking Gov. Rick Scott to call a special legislative session so lawmakers can review the state’s “Stand Your Ground Law” and racial profiling. The law expands self-defense in Florida and became the subject of controversy since Zimmerman initially was not going to face trial for shooting Martin.

However, after a meeting with Scott, the governor told the protestors he would not call a special session and have legislators take a second look at the law.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported:

Scott met with seven protesters, most affiliated with the activist group Dream Defenders, Thursday night, discussing their concerns and demands in a quiet circle of chairs inside a conference room adjacent to his first-floor offices.

“I want to give you once again the opportunity to ask you if you’ll be calling a special session of the Legislature to address this issue,” said Phillip Agnew, executive director of Dream Defenders, at the end of the nearly hour-long discussion.

“I’m not going to call a special session; I don’t believe right now that Stand Your Ground should be changed, but I can tell you I appreciate you,” Scott said.

After their audience with Scott, the activists insisted they would remain inside the Capitol until a special session is called to address the controversial self-defense law that was a part of George Zimmerman’s trial.

As promised, the protest has continued.

Activists have spent two weekends in the Capitol, so far, and have received support from religious groups and public figures throughout that time.

This past weekend, however, security has tightened at the Capitol.

According to The Miami Herald:

Capitol Police on Saturday refused to allow deliveries of food and bottled water to the 60 young protesters camped inside the building, the group’s leader said.

Capitol employees were allowed to bring hot meals to the protesters last weekend, said Phillip Agnew, whose Dream Defenders have spent the past 12 days in front of Gov. Rick Scott’s office.

But when a staff member showed up around 2 p.m. Saturday with cold cuts and bread, the police refused the delivery, Agnew said.

The group has enough packaged bagels and bananas to last through Saturday night, Agnew said. But they expected to run out of food by Sunday morning. Bottled water was also in short supply.

“We knew this wasn’t going to be easy,” Agnew said. “But if we don’t get some food soon, we are going to have a lot of really hungry people.”

Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger disagreed with the account, saying Capitol employees were still allowed to bring food to the protesters.

“We haven’t changed anything,” Plessinger said. “The rules remain the same.”

Raw Story reports that the activists “used their Twitter account to encourage supporters to call authorities on Saturday afternoon, before reporting that they were allowed to receive a dinner delivery.

Democratic state lawmakers have vowed to re-introduce legislation that would remove Stand Your Ground and civil rights leaders have sets their sights on it, too.

However, even though the Dream Defenders are fighting for a special session that is very unlikely, they are already getting some results.

The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported:

Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, is calling for a hearing on the “stand your ground” law during the Legislature’s next committee week in September.

Democratic leaders in the House are onboard with the idea.

“The kids have the right idea taking it right to the governor,” said House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, also of Fort Lauderdale. “We’re trying to have a compromise by having a common-sense conversation addressing those issues.”

Despite reports that Capitol police turned away food, officials have said there are no plans to stop the occupation in Tallahassee. There has also been no reports of tension and dust-ups between protesters and police.

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