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Harry Belafonte Joins Dream Defenders at Florida Capitol as Protest Enters 2nd Weekend

| July 26, 2013

The Dream Defenders at the Capitol are entering their second weekend of protest. (Facebook)

The Dream Defenders at the Capitol are entering their second weekend of protest. (Facebook)

A second weekend of social activism at the Capitol has come, and protesters continued to say Friday they don’t plan to go home.

Backed by the arrival of supporters from throughout Florida and the East Coast, as well as singer and activist Harry Belafonte, protesters led by the Hialeah-based Dream Defenders maintained their request for a special legislative session amid rousing chants that filled an area outside the governor’s office.

“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think there was a chance, and we’re not about fighting a fight that is lost from the beginning,” said Saleema Ali, a 23-year-old Orlando resident who joined the protest Thursday.

The protesters, who have used social media to broaden their call, want lawmakers to reconsider the state’s controversial 2005 “stand your ground” law, review racial profiling by police and review what they see as changes needed in the juvenile-justice system.

A couple hundred protesters filled the plaza level of the Capitol on Friday, the largest turnout for the protest since it started July 16. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported 86 people spent the night outside Gov. Rick Scott’s office on Thursday, also the most since the demonstration began.

But Scott, who visited the protesters for about an hour on July 18 but has otherwise avoided the Capitol since the protesters arrived, also has received support for his decision to reject a special session.

“Please continue to stand your ground on this issue. There are many of us for this law,” wrote Jean Howard of Hillsborough County to Scott’s Sunburst email on Wednesday.

Lorraine Snyder of Osceola County also advised Scott via email to, “Love our country enough to not cave in to this one sided political move by has beens and Hollywood. Maybe their unemployment, disability, and welfare checks will run out and they will have to return to their jobs, and responsibilities.”

The protesters say Scott’s stance has only hardened their will.

The Dream Defenders’ latest effort is to reach out to state lawmakers. They need to get 20 percent of lawmakers to demand a poll of the full Legislature. The long-shot hope is that three-fifths of the Republican-dominated House and Senate would respond affirmatively to a special session request.

“This is not even the tip of the iceberg on how we plan to receive justice,” said Dream Defenders Political Director Ciara Taylor.

While the legislative polling method is in state law, House Clerk Bob Ward advised the speaker’s office there was no record of the process ever being used in Florida.

The protesters are also planning to hold their own special session the next three Tuesdays to review their areas of concern.


The protest was sparked by the July 13 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the February 2012 shooting death of Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin. Though Zimmerman’s attorneys did not use a stand-your-ground defense, the Sanford case has led to a national debate about the law.

Belafonte, 86, the “King of Calypso” best known for the 1956 song “The Banana Boat” and whose social activism stretches back to the 1950s, said that if Scott knew history he’d call the special session.

“I would suggest he deals with it now while there is still sanity and peace,” Belafonte said before stressing that he supports non-violent protests.

Belafonte was considered a confidant of slain civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich also intends to visit the protesters Saturday.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement advised Rich that officers wouldn’t open the doors to the Capitol to the former state senator, as the doors remain closed to any member of the public during the weekend. However, Rich can still get inside as a guest of a current state lawmaker, said FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger.

The Florida State Conference of the NAACP has joined the call for a session over the “stand your ground” law.

In a letter to Scott on Tuesday, the NAACP noted the 4th District Court of Appeal said July 17 that the controversial legal defense can be used by a Broward County juvenile involved in a fight on a middle school bus.

“With the verdict in the Zimmerman trial and the broadened interpretation of the ‘stand your ground’ law, it is only a matter of time before weapons become a norm for children in our schools,” Florida NAACP President Adora Obi Nweze wrote Scott.

The FDLE estimated the cost for round-the-clock security has required more than $50,600 in overtime. Counting regular pay, the FDLE put security costs since July 15, the day before the protesters arrived at the Capitol, around $200,000.

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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10 Responses for “Harry Belafonte Joins Dream Defenders at Florida Capitol as Protest Enters 2nd Weekend”

  1. Freddy says:

    I say tally your bananas and go home.

  2. Norm says:

    This is so OVER !! You know their cause is down the tubes when old Harry Belafonte makes an appearance. Another celebrity feeding off another lost cause .

  3. karma says:

    Ironic that 7 people shoot dead in home town of the “dream defenders”. Maybe they should help the people of their own town, and let the state spend there money on better things then extra security at the capital.

  4. Forest G says:

    How hypocritical all these celebrities who jump on the bandwagon of defending and protesting laws designed so that people can defend themselfs from criminals legally. Meanwhile they travel with body guards probably
    armed bodyguards because they fear for thier own safety. JZ, Stevie Wonder, etc. Please keep your twisted uniformed hollywood beliefs in California and keep your lousy expensive music out of Florida. these entertainers are as phoney as half of our elected politicians.

  5. brian says:

    yo harry, i thought you guys were going to boycott fl?

  6. Equal Justice says:

    I am extremely proud of the Dream Defenders. They are standing their ground for Florida, and they will prevail. ” No weapon formed against me shall prosper”.

  7. Sherry Epley says:

    Go Dream Defenders! Now that is democracy at its best!

  8. RHWeir says:

    It’s over for now. Entertainers should stay out of legal matters. Obama should have said that he had no comment beyond; a jury has spoken, AG Holder, the DOJ and the FBI are reviewing the trial. Until the results of that trial are made public, I have no further comment. Those in attendance can afford it so, they should have to pay all overtime put in by public employees to accommodate them. As the president has said, it’s about the economy. Refer to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/28/poverty-unemployment-rates_n_3666594.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular it is much more important than the review of a local trial. The Dems had better look long and hard about getting elected in 2016. It’s not looking good for my party and our biased leader.

  9. Sherry Epley says:

    Excuse me. . . are entertainers. . . and our politiical leaders (who are trying to bring us together in peace) not allowed to voice their personal opinions now? What about athletes? CEOs? Manipulating news reporters? It seems to me that even very influential religious leaders preach their opinion and prejudices from the bully pulpit, even though there is suppose to be a separation of church and state. Or is it only those who’s opinions differ from yours?

  10. Sherry Epley says:

    Excuse me. . . are entertainers. . . and our politiical leaders (who are trying to bring us together in peace) not allowed to voice their personal opinions now? What about athletes? CEOs? Manipulating news reporters? It seems to me that even very influential religious leaders preach their opinion and prejudices from the bully pulpit, even though there is suppose to be a separation of church and state. Or is it only those whose opinions differ from yours?

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