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Capitol protesters get surprise visit from Gov. Rick Scott

10:53 PM, Jul 18, 2013   |    comments
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Gov. Rick Scott shakes hands with Capitol protesters after meeting with a group of them Thursday night.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gov. Rick Scott surprised protesters at the state Capitol Thursday night by showing up there and inviting them into his conference room to listen to their concerns.

The protesters, led by the group Dream Defenders, have been holding a sit-in outside Gov. Scott's office for the past three days and sleeping inside the Capitol overnight because they want the governor to call a special legislative session focusing on civil rights.

Scott listened to a half dozen protesters, who asked him "to be brave" and call a special session.

The protesters want state lawmakers to consider a so-called Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act that would include a repeal of Florida's Stand Your Ground law and establish new rules for police on racial profiling.

Phillip Agnew of the Dream Defenders told Gov. Scott that the protesters will stay at the Capitol until he calls a special session.

"I know you have a heart. People may paint you as otherwise but I know you have a heart there and I think it's important that you listen to that heart. Listen to the people that are here. Really think about what's a better way forward and what's a true way to honor in both words and actions the life and the death of a young man that died under your watch."

Scott said he appreciated their commitment to engage in the political process, but he would not order a special session.

"I tell people as I travel the state, I think people ought to engage in the process, engage in our state. Everybody should. They ought to know people that are running for office. They ought to run for office. I hope y'all are going to be running for office eventually and you're already engaged in the process. Thanks for coming. I'm not going call a special session. I don't believe right now that Stand Your Ground should be changed but I'll tell you right now that I appreciate you."

After the meeting, Agnew called it the start of a good dialogue with the governor.

But he said protesters will put out a call to youth around the nation to come join their effort at the Florida Capitol to raise the pressure on Gov. Scott to call a special session.

"It's an American tragedy when a young man can be murdered on his way to the store and it becomes so polarizing in the country and rush to find excuses for the murder of that man. It's sad day when we can find an excuse in the law books of Florida. It's sad day when in the heart of the state you can find Disney World, a place where dreams come true, and that's the only place in Florida where that happens."

Scott said he would declare this Sunday a day of unity in Florida following the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman.

Dave Heller

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