The Dream Defenders' occupation to end racial profiling and repeal Stand Your Ground laws in Florida, 2013

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Timing
Time Period:  
July
2013
to
August
2014
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Tallahassee, Florida
Goals: 
Repeal the Stand Your Ground law and enact a proposed Trayvon Martin civil rights act.
 

On 14 July 2013, a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who Zimmerman had shot in early 2012. The jury cited Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in their acquittal, which permitted civilian use of potentially lethal force in self-defense. Two hours after this acquittal, the Dream Defenders, a youth-led racial justice organization in Florida, marched with 300 students and residents to the Florida State Capitol to protest the verdict.

Two days later, on 16 July, the Dream Defenders launched their Take Over Florida campaign, demanding that Florida Governor Rick Scott meet with them and “call a special session of the Florida legislature to address the issues at the center of the Trayvon Martin tragedy: stand your ground vigilantism, racial profiling and a war on youth that paints us as criminals and funnels us out of schools and into jails.” To this end they demanded that this special session draft a “New Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act” that would repeal the Stand Your Ground law and address issues of racial profiling and the school-to-prison pipeline. Sixty people joined them in the Florida State Capitol and initiated an occupation of the building.

The day after the Dream Defenders launched their occupation, 17 July, Governor Scott publicly rejected their demand to repeal the Stand Your Ground law. The Dream Defenders continued their occupation and reiterated their demand for a meeting.

Late the next day, on 18 July, Rick Scott agreed to a meeting with seven leaders of the Dream Defenders, who urged him to address racial profiling and push for the repeal of Stand Your Ground laws. Governor Scott stated he would not call for a special session nor would he push to repeal the controversial law, but he encouraged the leaders to meet with local legislators.

On 22 July 2013, seven days into their occupation, the Dream Defenders received a letter from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services saying they had not filed the necessary paperwork for soliciting donations and may face fines. The Dream Defenders stated that the paperwork had been filed the next day, 23 July. The same day, the Dream Defenders announced in a press conference that a weekly demonstration would be held every Tuesday of the occupation. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) said they had no plans to evict the occupiers but also revealed that they had spent about $37,000 in overtime pay for Capitol police officers due to the occupation.

Three days later, on 26 July 2013, civil rights icon Harry Belafonte visited the occupation and publicly voiced his support for the Dream Defenders. Belafonte and the Dream Defenders led a rally of over 250 people to Governor Scott’s office – about 100 of the demonstrators expected to stay over the weekend with the occupation.

In response to Governor Scott’s continued refusal to a call a special legislative session, the Dream Defenders announced in a press conference on 30 July that they would convene the People’s Session: a series of panels and expert testimony to examine Florida’s racial profiling, school-to-prison pipeline, and Stand Your Ground laws. They proceeded to hold the Opening Session and passed four resolutions: recognizing 5February as Trayvon Martin Day in Florida; calling for the pardoning of Marissa Alexander; recognizing every Tuesday as Takeover Tuesday in Florida; and calling “all supporters of justice” to join a sit-in in Governor Scott’s office. On the same day the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a civil rights leader and former Presidential candidate, publicly announced support for the Dream Defender’s occupation.

Over the next three days, from 31 July to 2 August 2013, the Dream Defenders held three consecutive meetings of the People’s Session. On 31 July youth activists and representatives of the NAACP and the Advancement Project testified on Florida’s school-to-prison pipeline and zero tolerance policies in schools. The next day the People’s Session discussed Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws with Rashad Robinson, the director of the racial justice organization Color of Change. On 2 August the People’s Session discussed racial profiling.

Four days later, on 6 August, Governor Scott announced a new effort to purge non-citizens from state’s voter rolls. Scott’s previous attempts to purge non-citizens from voting lists prompted a legal challenge from U.S Department of Justice.

In response to Scott’s renewed voter purge the Dream Defenders announced on 8 August a new plan to register 61,500 new Florida voters – Rick Scott won the gubernatorial election in 2010 by 61,500 votes. On the same day, the Dream Defenders held the final meeting of the People’s Session and passed four more resolutions. Three of the resolutions make up Trayvon’s Law, which would end the school-to-prison pipeline, end racial profiling, and repeal the stand your ground law. The fourth resolution declared their intent to build the movement’s power throughout the state.

On August 15 2013, after 31 days and 30 nights of nonviolent occupation, Dream Defenders’ Executive Director Phillip Agnew announced that they would end their occupation of the Capitol to begin the next phase of their work, including registering voters. Julian Bond, a founding member of the 1960s civil rights organization Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and former NAACP chairman, joined Agnew at the press conference to express his support for the campaign. The Dream Defenders also released a list of victories from their Take Over Florida campaign, which included pressuring Speaker of the Florida House Will Weatherford calling for hearings on the Stand Your Ground law to occur in the fall of 2013 and securing meetings with the heads of the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

Research Notes
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Guido Girgenti, 30/03/2014