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Into Their Second Week of Protest, Dream Defenders Plan Their Own Special Session

| July 30, 2013

The head of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice hearing it from Dream Defenders in the governor's office. (Facebook)

The head of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice hearing it from Dream Defenders in the governor’s office. (Facebook)

Gov. Rick Scott held his first workday in the Capitol since the second week of July, days before a group of protesters began an ongoing siege of his office.

The protesters on Monday, instead, got state Rep. Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello.

Scott, who is expected to spend the next couple of days back on the road, didn’t pop out for a chat with those who want him to call a special session on the state’s controversial “stand your ground” law.

While a number of protesters continued to camp outside the first floor lobby of the governor’s office and plan for their own review of the law beginning Tuesday, Scott spent the day with staff and had a morning meeting with Enterprise Florida CEO Gray Swoope.

As Swoope was meeting with Scott, Beshears was in the lobby with about 15 protesters.

Protester Melanie Andrade said Beshears’ appearance was an attempt to placate the group, similar to an appearance by Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters a week earlier.

“It seems like they’re scrambling, they have to say, ‘We’re trying, we’re listening,’ ” said Andrade, Florida A&M University chapter president for the Hialeah-based Dream Defenders, which has led the protests. “I do feel the pressure is mounting that he (Scott) will have to do something soon.”

Beshears, whose district includes a portion of Leon County, said he dropped by on his own.

And while Beshears supports holding a debate on the law during the 2014 regular legislative session — rather than during a special session — he also supports the law.

“I agree with “stand your ground,” it’s a good law,” Beshears said. “I think it has great intention. I disagree with the application in some cases. But like any good law, there is always some bad applications, but they’re very minor.”

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

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 case in Sanford has led to a national debate about the law.

The protesters plan to begin their own “special session” starting Tuesday afternoon in the Old Capitol to discuss what they call “Trayvon’s Law,” which combines their entire platform.

The protesters’ “session” is expected to run for at least three consecutive days, rather than over the next three Tuesdays as originally announced. A list of speakers and experts expected to testify, and how the session will run, is to be released Tuesday when the session begins, said Dream Defenders Political Director Ciara Taylor.

Scott and legislative leaders have said they do not plan to call a special session on the law, which was a subject of a task force last summer. Scott told the protesters his position during a hastily called meeting July 18, when he made his one appearance in the Capitol during the prior two weeks.

“I’m not sure what a special session would accomplish,” Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said Monday.

“I think you call a special session of the Legislature when you have a landing zone that’s agreed upon on an issue,” Gaetz said. “You don’t call a special session, I don’t think, and just bring 160 politicians to town, and turn them loose and hope it all works out.”

Without support from legislative leaders, members of the Dream Defenders are reaching out to state lawmakers. They are trying to get a needed 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.

Because a couple hundred people lined the hallway to Scott’s office when singer and civil-rights activist Harry Belafonte stopped by to lend his support Friday, the state Monday removed the paintings of former governors from the walls.

“There was some concern that they could be inadvertently damaged, with a lot of people in there the walls could shake a little bit,” FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said.

Asked about comments from the 86-year-old Belafonte, who suggested Friday that Scott “deals with it now while there is still sanity and peace,” Gaetz responded Monday, “I think Harry Belafonte is a better singer than he is a prognosticator of public policy.”

The FDLE estimated that security costs — regular and overtime combined — topped $30,000 for the weekend, with overtime pay since July 15, the day before the protests started, now reaching $77,697.24.

–Jim Turner, New Service of Florida

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18 Responses for “Into Their Second Week of Protest, Dream Defenders Plan Their Own Special Session”

  1. My Daily Rant says:

    We should be able to defend ourselves.If there wasn’t so many violent people out there we would not need this law.

  2. Chas0font says:

    This is the way ignorant (protesters) people “punish” the law abiding public for not finding Zimmerman guilty as charged. They didn’t get their way, and now someone has to pay.

    And this says a whole lot about students at Florida A&M University . It proves they have and are learning nothing.

  3. Donna Heiss says:

    Doesn’t anyone work anymore?

  4. Anonymous says:

    don’t these protestors have jobs??????

  5. Mr mondex says:

    Oh ! Please. Will these people just move on already. Give everybody a break ,GET OVER IT!!!!!!!already

  6. Anonymous says:

    If any of the protesters are receiving public assistance then it should be revoked since they not working, looking for work or volunteering. There should be a designated area for protesters and they should be restircted to protest during business hours, and we the tax payers should not be absorbing costs for over time!

  7. Dutchman says:


  8. Citizen says:

    When you do not have a job and living off the government, I guess you can afford to attend protests for anything you want.

  9. Sherry Epley says:

    Awwww. . . and I keep hearing about how there are no bigots or prejudice people in Florida. If these STUDENTS were white, no one who be asking them why they were not at work. Check your calendar . . . these STUDENTS on summer break are expressing their constitutional rights. Democracy in action!!!!

  10. A.S.F. says:

    …And, as the comments like the ones written above clearly attest, the problem with prejudice and racism in our country continues. Thank God for young people like these, who care enough about the future of this nation to stand up for something they believe in and make their voices heard.

  11. Forest G says:

    $ 77,697, really. How much money are they going spend to baby sit protesters, is Gov Scott going to authorize before he says stop. Why are these people allowed to disrupt and add additional cost to a goverment process? does this mean that we will now allow all protesters to cost the state hundreds of thousands every time people decide to take camp at the capitol? Please will someone with authority in Tallahasse Gov office make a decision and control this excessive spending its our tax money not yours to placade away!

  12. Robert says:

    Just like OJ .

    Get over it and move on.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Close the Government office until further notice.

  14. Anonymous says:

    What are they protesting for? They have already been told there won’t be a special session. These 12 people should be charged with loitering.

  15. ryan says:

    Always dragging race into the issue. As someone whose family has fought against racism and bigotry for half a century, it sickens me to see so many people taking advantage of racism claims. Where the hell are you when a REAL hate crime occurs? peeking around the corner waiting for it to be all over, that’s where.

  16. m&m says:

    The people who bring up the race card are the blacks.. We use to get along 5-6 years ago until Obama came on the scene. He’s promoting racism..

    • A.S.F. says:

      Yes, we all know how absolutely true it is that there were no problems with racism before Barack Obama. That has to be the most incredibly inexplicable comment I have ever read on this forum (to date.) For some out there, I guess America is still a KKK wonderland of ignorance, dressed up in flag-waving, righteous-sounding indignation.

  17. Sherry Epley says:

    @ASF Unfortunately, you are absolutely correct!

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