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Pressure mounts on Gov. Rick Scott to meet with Capitol protesters

4:29 PM, Jul 18, 2013   |    comments
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Photo sent in by Dante Rucker

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Protesters continued their vigil Thursday outside Gov. Rick Scott's Capitol office for the third day and vowed to remain there until they meet with the governor.

They chanted, "Who do we want? Rick Scott! When do we want him? Now!" But Scott was in Tampa on Thursday and did not have plans to return to Tallahassee this week.

Dozens of members of the group Dream Defenders and others are hunkered down outside Scott's office, singing songs and calling on Scott to call a special legislative session to consider changing Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, which allows people to use deadly force in public if they feel a serious threat.

After sleeping for two nights inside the Capitol waiting for the governor, they are frustrated that Scott has not met with them.

"We're a democracy and we elect our officials and they're supposed to be working for us and for you to not even acknowledge the fact that we're here, it blows my mind," said Shamille Louis.

Regina Joseph of the Dream Defenders said it was hard keeping up the vigil day after day, but she felt inspired by everyone's commitment to the effort.

"I'm here because my brothers look like Trayvon, I have cousins that look like Trayvon and enough is enough and I'm tired of Stand Your Ground. I'm tired of walking through my neighborhood, people asking me why I'm here, when I have the freedom to exist and live."

Lucky Thomas, another Dream Defender who attends Florida A&M University, said the protest was about creating a better future for children.

"We're not here to cause trouble. We're here because we all love and care about everyone in this room. We love and care about our communities. We love and care about our youth. We love and care about our future and we just want to see them grow up and have a chance and we want to be able to nurture them and teach them that they have power."

The Dream Defenders held a phone conference call on Thursday to talk with media from around the country. They set up on the third floor of the Capitol in the office of House Democrats, where the protesters are storing blankets and pillows for their overnight vigil outside Gov. Scott's office.

Phillip Agnew was on the call. He said the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict taught members of the Dream Defenders this lesson.

"Florida really had no value for the life of a young person of color and so we're here at the Statehouse staying, not leaving until he (Gov. Scott) answers our demands and we're giving him an opportunity to prove his commitment, not only to young people of color, but to the future of young people in the state. The governor has indicated that he has no intention of speaking to us and we continue to indicate that we are not going anywhere until he realizes the error of his ways and comes to speak with us."

The protesters plan to sleep outside the governor's office again on Thursday night.

Capitol Police are allowing protesters to remain in the Capitol overnight, but police have not decided yet if they will allow the protest to continue inside the Capitol this weekend.

As the protest continued at the state Capitol, a few blocks away, pastors and Democratic lawmakers from north Florida issued a new call to Gov. Scott.

They lined up in the basement of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and said Florida needs to take a closer look at its self defense laws as a result of the Zimmerman not guilty verdict.

They want Gov. Rick Scott to launch a study immediately on whether Florida's self defense laws treat minorities fairly.

Rev. R.B. Holmes urged Scott to call a special legislative session to consider the Stand Your Ground law and the state's 10-20-Life law.

Rev. Holmes served as the vice chairman of Scott's Stand Your Ground task force last year. That group ultimately concluded the Stand Your Ground law was fine, but now Holmes wants lawmakers to study the issue further.

"I'm calling upon the governor of the state of Florida to meet with the Senate President and the Speaker of the House and members of the Black Caucus and strongly consider calling a special session to take a hard and unbiased look at the 10-20 law and the Stand Your Ground law."

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, tried to ratchet up pressure on Gov. Scott to take time to meet with the protesters at the state Capitol.

"Governor, come home. Come home and talk to these students, these citizens of the state of Florida who are in your lobby. Come home and speak with them."

Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, said repealing the Stand Your Ground law would make streets safer and make sure the life of Trayvon Martin was not taken in vain.

"History has told the story. Now it's time for us to write the next chapter in that story and to make sure that the citizens of Florida can live in a place where they know that if they walk down the street, whether they walk too slow, or too fast, that they'll be OK."

Gov. Scott has been conducting business outside of Tallahassee this week, but he did sleep at the Governor's Mansion on Tuesday.

Rep. Williams said it looked like Scott was avoiding the protesters.

"When they came to the governor's doorstep two days ago, he could have simply said, 'I'm going to get back in my private jet, come back home and meet with these students.' Gov. Crist would have done it and Gov. Bush would have done it because it's about leadership."

Dave Heller

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