Members of a student activist group remained inside the Florida state Capitol Wednesday afternoon, determined to wait until they can ask Gov. Rick Scott (R) in person to revisit several state laws they say endanger youth of color around the state.
Ciara Taylor, political director for the Dream Defenders, told The Raw Story in an interview on Wednesday that the group began organizing shortly after the acquittal of George Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. About 100 members of the group from around the state began the sit-in on Tuesday in Scott’s office, with about 30 members staying overnight in the lobby.
“It’s not a black tragedy or a brown tragedy that this happened,” executive director Phillip Agnew told WKMG-TV Tuesday evening, before referring to the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. “It’s an American tragedy when a young boy is killed and we have a law on the books that allows that to be fine.”
Though the law was not cited in the Zimmerman case, Taylor told The Raw Story the youth advocacy group plans to address other matters as well, like the state’s “zero-tolerance” expulsion policy, with Scott when they get the chance.
“We feel that the problem is not just ‘Stand Your Ground,’” she said. “It’s a general criminalization of our youth that has been brought about in the state of Florida through racist legislature like ‘Stand Your Ground’ and the zero-tolerance policy, [and] also through racial profiling by law enforcement, as well.”
Scott was not at the Capitol when the group arrived. A spokesperson sent WKMG a statement noting that he convened a task force to look into ‘Stand Your Ground’ after Martin was shot and killed by Zimmerman.
“This Task Force listened to Floridians across the state and heard their viewpoints and expert opinions on this law,” the statement read. “The task force recommended that the law should not be overturned, and Governor Scott agrees.”
But Taylor responded on Wednesday that Scott should convene a new legislative session to discuss the law in the wake of the verdict, “arguing that the members of the task force supported the law long before they were appointed.
“We weren’t really surprised that they agreed with the law,” she said. “It is a sham.”
No date has been set for Scott’s return, while Taylor said the group will continue to stay at the Capitol.
Watch WKMG’s report on the Dream Defenders’ campaign, aired Tuesday, below.
The group has also set up a live-stream of the demonstration, which can be seen below.