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Dream Defenders sit in, Florida governor refuses demands

By staff

Tallahassee, FL – After three days of occupying the governor’s office in the Florida capitol building, protesters demanding justice for Trayvon Martin finally secured a meeting with Governor Rick Scott, July 19. Scott met for about 45 minutes with several leaders from Dream Defenders, a student activist organization led by Black and Latino youth. He refused to give into any of the protesters’ demands.

The sit-in began at 9:00 a.m. on July 16, with at least 25 students sleeping in the governor’s office every night. The action was called in response to the acquittal in the George Zimmerman trial. Protesters demanded to meet with Governor Scott and push for a special legislative session. Dream Defenders demands that the governor push for an end to racial profiling, the repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing laws that place African-American and Latino youth in prison and the repeal of the Stand Your Ground law. Protesters are calling for a package of laws from the governor and the legislature called the Trayvon Martin Act.

“It’s my first time doing an overnight sit-in,” said Florida State University Dream Defender President Brian Marshall. “Having Rick Scott agree to meet with us is a victory, but we’re disappointed he didn’t agree to our demands. We’re going to continue protesting him and the criminal injustice system that let Trayvon’s killer off the hook.”

The meeting with Scott comes after the governor dodged protesters for two days, spending time in New York and then in Pensacola and Tampa, far from his Tallahassee office. On July 18, protesters in Tampa crashed the event Scott spoke at, demanding he meet with the occupiers in his office in Tallahassee.

On the night of July 13, protesters in Sanford, Florida rallied outside of the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center to demand justice for Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Black youth murdered by George Zimmerman in February 2012. When the nearly all-white jury found Zimmerman not guilty, protesters issued a call for nationwide protests. That call was answered, with mass militant demonstrations in Los Angeles, New York City, Milwaukee, Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, North Carolina, Tampa, Gainesville and Miami, among others.

In Tallahassee, a midnight march protesting the verdict stormed the steps of the Florida capitol building. Organized by Florida State University Dream Defenders, the protest drew more than 300 people, mostly African-Americans, from the campus and the community.

Since Dream Defenders launched its occupation of Scott’s office, other organizations have joined their demonstration. The newly formed Tallahassee Students for a Democratic Society marched from the nearby All Saints Café to reinforce the occupation and groups like the NAACP and the Big Bend Labor Chapter have helped provide refreshments and blankets. Hip hop media magnate Russell Simmons endorsed the action, and importantly, the FSU student body President Rosie Contreras publicly announced her support for the FSU chapter of Dream Defenders.

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