UPDATE — 08/02/13:
Folding to revolutionary pressure, Florida lawmakers announced Friday that they will hold hearings this fall on the state’s controversial and racially biased “Stand Your Ground” laws, reports Raw Story
Will Weatherford, the speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives, made the announcement, which marks the largest victory to date for the bold and courageous ‘Dream Defenders.’
“Across Florida, representatives are receiving calls, letters, visits and emails from constituents with diverse opinions on ‘Stand Your Ground,’” Weatherford said. “Passions are high, but every person has the right to express their views on this matter of great importance.”
“Our evaluation of its (the law’s) effectiveness should be guided by objective information, not by political expediency,” Weatherford wrote in an op-ed for the Tampa Tribune.
“Does the law keep the innocent safer? Is it being applied fairly? Are there ways we can make this law clearer and more understandable?”
Phillip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders, acknowledged the milestone:
“It’s a critical first step.”
In addition to the Dream Defenders, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Rev. Jesse Jackson, MSNBC’s PoliticsNation host Rev. Al Sharpton, Harry Belafonte and a host of other celebrities and public figures have called for a review of the laws.
A group of student revolutionaries known as the Dream Defenders has occupied Florida’s Capitol building for the sixteenth day, refusing to leave until Gov. Rick Scott reevaluates the state’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws, reports USA Today.
Forming immediately after George Zimmerman was found ‘not guilty’ of murdering Trayvon Martin on July 13, 2013, the group’s numbers have ebbed and flowed, but their presence has remained constant.
And they are not leaving.
Read more from USA Today:
On July 18, the Dream Defenders met with [Gov. Scott] and demanded that he convene a special committee to re-evaluate the “stand your ground” law.
He told them “no.”
The Dream Defenders have since drawn national attention to their cause and plan to camp out inside the Capitol until their demands are met.
“It is our attempt to try and receive justice from our justice system,” says Lashanett Lorraine, a Dream Defender from Florida A&M University.
Even though the number of protesters ebbs and flows — from 30 to 70 people — they maintain a constant presence.
“There’s new people showing up every day … folks coming in from all over the state,” says Dream Defender Michael Sampson, a student at Florida State University. “And we still have a steady flow of rock-hard, solid people who are not going to stop.”
“Last Friday, we had a rally with around 400 people, and Harry Belafonte came to speak,” he says.
Tuesday, they gained the support of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who showed up to a mock session of the Florida Legislature hosted by the Dream Defenders.
Dubbed the “People’s Session,” they discussed the idea of “Trayvon’s Law,” a proposal to address three key issues and their goals for ending the occupation: ethics training to reduce racial profiling by law enforcement, repealing the “stand your ground” law and repealing zero-tolerance in schools — which they claim fuels a “school to prison” pipeline by expelling students for minor infractions.