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Students Stage Sit-In at Gov. Scott’s Office, Demanding Special Session on Florida’s Gun Laws

| July 16, 2013

The Dream Defenders marching into Gov. Rick Scott's office Tuesday, asking for a special session to address Florida's permissive gun laws. (© Tom Urban/News Service of Florida)

The Dream Defenders marching into Gov. Rick Scott’s office Tuesday, asking for a special session to address Florida’s permissive gun laws. (© Tom Urban/News Service of Florida)

About 40 students sat in Tuesday at the Governor’s Office, waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to return from a trip to New York and take up their demand for a special legislative session addressing laws they say unfairly affect minority youth.

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As of shortly before 5 p.m., they were leaving Scott’s waiting area and making plans to spend the night in the Capitol rotunda.

The students, part of a group called the Dream Defenders, said they’re responding to the “not guilty” verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman, who was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death last year of black teen Trayvon Martin in Seminole County.

They want Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” self-defense law changed. They asked for a meeting with Scott, and when told he was unavailable, vowed to wait for his return. They want Scott to call a special session to create a Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Acts and address “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.”

Scott’s office put out a statement suggesting the governor is unlikely to meet their demands.

“As the governor has said, as a father and a grandfather, his heart goes out to Trayvon Martin’s family and all those affected by his death,” said Communications Director Melissa Sellers in an email. “We are grateful that people across our great nation have the right to assemble and share their views. … Immediately following Trayvon Martin’s death, Gov. Scott called a bi-partisan special task force with 19 citizens to review Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. This task force listened to Floridians across the state and heard their viewpoints and expert opinions on this law. The task force recommended that the law should not be overturned, and Gov. Scott agrees.”

The governor’s task force did not include opponents of the controversial “stand your ground” law, although Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, D-Ft. Lauderdale, had asked to be appointed. The panel recommended few changes, and the 2013 Legislature refused to hear any bills that would have changed “stand your ground.”

“Even the governor’s task force filed legislation that wasn’t heard,” Smith said. “There was a fear of even discussing it. But I think the more and more pressure that’s put on Florida to at least have the discussion, I think (it) will happen this year.”


The stand-your-ground law drew widespread publicity when Zimmerman was not arrested for 44 days after shooting the 17-year-old Martin. The law says people have a right to meet “force with force” if they reasonably believe such steps are necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.

While Zimmerman ultimately was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, a six-member jury Saturday found him not guilty.

The students sat in the governor’s waiting room from 11 a.m. until shortly before close of business. As Capitol police looked on, they sang and chanted and took turns describing their own encounters with racism.

“So you’re telling me — again — that people who look like me, we don’t matter,” said Shamile Louis, 21, a student at the University of Florida who came from Gainesville to participate. “Our bodies don’t matter. We can lie in the street and be dead and it’s cool. I had a friend killed about a month ago in Orlando. Still no arrest. Still no nothing. Another black man gone. Another young black boy without a father. And so that’s why I’m here today.”

Dorothy Inman-Johnson, a retired poverty-agency administrator and former mayor of Tallahassee, said she she’ll keep protesting until “stand your ground” is abolished.

“If ‘stand your ground’ was doing what these legislators said it was supposed to do, the presumption of self-defense should have been Trayvon’s, not George Zimmerman’s,” she said.

There were about 100 protestors when they first marched to Scott’s office, but their numbers dwindled as the day wore on. They ate pizza and played cards while waiting. Some said they expect buses to add to their numbers on Wednesday, with groups coming from Miami, Boca Raton, Orlando and Alabama.

–Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida

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17 Responses for “Students Stage Sit-In at Gov. Scott’s Office, Demanding Special Session on Florida’s Gun Laws”

  1. Freddy says:

    The stand your ground law and gun ownership is available for people of all colors if they qualify. So why are blacks protesting this law?

  2. boomer says:

    you are all ill informed about gun rights, stand your ground, and self defense,,,,you can take away all the guns from us law abiding citizens and the gun related deaths will be the same or increase….please learn all the facts before you protest..just a hint, if you carry a gun it is your responsibility to remain in control of said gun….if you fail to lose control of said gun, you are dead…just one thing nobody spoke about at this media circus…..get with it people…it’s a slaughter house in Chicago and most major cities every day of the year and I don’t see you protesting about the criminal element having guns….just saying…..good luck and don’t look to me when you really need to be protected because you will have taken away my right to the constitution…..

    • Magnolia says:

      700 deaths in Chicago since Trayvon died and guns are illegal. If you go on the internet, you will find their names and photos.

      Where are the protests for these people?

      • A.S.F. says:

        By singling out Chicago (as all Tea Partiers do, continually), I am guessing that you would like to believe, and have others believe, that Chicago, due to its association with President Obama, is the only city, in the only state, in our entire country that has a problem with a high crime rate…as though that makes intelligent debate about how to make our gun laws more sane a moot point. Here’s a newsflash for you–It doesn’t. And, if you look closely at the picture accompanying this article, you will see people of all colors protesting. We all have reason for concern. There are too many guns in hands of too many careless and unqualified individuals, let alone the strictly criminal element (not to mention the crazy element), and THAT is a matter of serious concern for ALL of us. The Trayvon Martin tragedy just reminds us, once again, of our need to do some serious thinking–as did Newtown, the mass shooting in Colorado and other events that have made the news in the past and, I’m afraid, will continue to do so in the future.

        • Magnolia says:

          To ASF: 700 deaths is not a problem, it’s a slaughter.

          Did I say it was the only city with a high death toll where guns are illegal? I don’t believe I did. DC is another, and nothing is done about it. The criminals have the guns in both cities and many others. And I am not in the Tea Party, but I am choosing to voice an opinion based upon fact.

          I have a news flash for you…we have been given the right to defend ourselves, a right guaranteed to us in the Constitution. The restrictions regarding the certification for a legally owned weapon are not taken lightly. Mr. Zimmerman had a legally owned firearm and his case did not involve the Stand Your Ground law. You go ahead and think all you want.

          • A.S.F. says:

            Magnolia–I certainly shall. YOU were the one who brought up Chicago specifically, which I have seen repeatedly and specifically named by all the commentors on this forum who like to attribute every problem that exists in this country to President Obama. If you are not a card-carrying member of the Tea Party, you might as well be. You are hawking their wares often enough. The right you speak of in the Constitution is a matter of interpretation. It refers to a militia having the right to bear arms. Are you, as an individual, defining yourself as a militia? How many people do you see when you look in the mirror?

            • FlaglerLive says:

              ASF, in fairness to accuracy, the right to bear arms is no longer that open to interpretation but is settled law for now, thanks to Scalia and the 2008 Heller decision, which defined the right to bear arms as an individual right. While it can easily and justly be argued that Scalia pulled that one out of his creative ether, it’s inarguable that it is now the law, and in matters of rights–if we believe in more individual rights, not fewer–should be the law, though Magnolia is wrong in asserting that Stand Your Ground did not play a part in the Zimmerman case. The principle was an explicit part of the judge’s instructions to the jury, just as it is explicitly in Florida law whether a Stand Your Ground hearing is invoked in a murder trial or not.

  3. Jon Hardison says:

    Now were talking! This is what we need. I applaud them!

  4. Terry says:

    Oh please…..And what liberal Marxist school teacher rallied these juveniles and “brainwashed” them into believing the “stand your ground” defense law is unconstitutional ? Radical youths are taught to be radical from adult radicals !

  5. Ayn Rand's Spleen says:

    Yet another example of the sad state of education in Florida, as these students actually believe that Scott or anyone else in legislature gives a crap enough about education to care what students think. Now, if this were a group of 40 lobbyists or 40 campaign contributors we would have action in this state on gun control immediately.

  6. Gia says:

    Stand your ground is here to stay.

  7. Magnolia says:

    Does everyone here realize that the Stand Your Ground law was not part of this trial, that Zimmerman turned it down as his defense?

    • Richard Moore says:

      Zimmerman couldn’t “turn down” the stand your ground concept, just as he couldn’t “turn down” the laws concerning murder and manslaughter. The law is either applicable in the situation or not, it’s not a fast-food menu.

  8. Outsider says:

    Magnolia is absolutely right; stand your ground was not invoked. That would have put the case in front of ONE judge, who would have made a political decision not to give Martin immunity. Even in front of the kangaroo court assembled by politicians, Martin was found not guilty, using long-standing self defense laws. But, the ball is already rolling downhill, and the ignorant can’t stop it now and admit they were wrong.

  9. Sherry Epley says:

    Please keep in mind that this is not a Chicago or even a national news site. The focus of this excellent endeavor is on our region of Florida and how our culture some times influences/reflects/contrasts to the state and national political scenes.

  10. Kip Durocher says:

    The stand your ground law was written by ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council and was written at the behest of the firearms industry, handed to the legislators in all states where it exists, 19 I believe, who then submitted it to be voted into law.
    Americans need to learn about ALEC and it’s nefarious activities. Too many citizens do not even know of it’s existence. It is time folks wised up.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Legislative_Exchange_Council

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