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Talib Kweli, Activists To Join Dream Defenders For Fourth Week At Capitol

By: Mike Vasilinda; Matt Horn; Bailey Myers; Lanetra Bennett Email
By: Mike Vasilinda; Matt Horn; Bailey Myers; Lanetra Bennett Email
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Press Release: Dream Defenders

(Tallahassee, Fla.) – In their fourth week of occupation at the Florida Capitol Building, the Dream Defenders are continuing to garner the support of celebrities and public figures from across the nation. On Thursday, hip-hop artist Talib Kweli will travel to the statehouse to meet with the youth leadership of the civil rights organization and join their sit-in at Gov. Rick Scott’s office.

Also joining in solidarity will be Biko Baker, executive director of the League of Young Voters, and North Carolina NAACP President, Rev. William J. Barber, leader of the “Moral Mondays” mass civil disobedience movement in the Tar Heel State.

The group of youth and young adults started camping out in front of the Governor’s office on July 16, three days after George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. While they have achieved one of their policy goals – a legislative hearing on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law – they are calling for additional hearings on racial profiling and the zero-tolerance discipline policies that push students out of school and into the criminal justice system. Not only do these practices have long-term harmful effects on young people, they also impose a steep financial burden on Florida taxpayers. The Dream Defenders also want the state legislature to consider “Trayvon’s Law,” a bill that would address all three issues.

On Thursday, there will be a press availability with Talib Kweli at 4:00 pm ET.

Talib Kweli, Baker and Barber are the latest public figures to stand in solidarity with the Dream Defenders. Over the past three weeks, they have been visited by legendary entertainer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, as well as activist and poet Kevin Powell. Other celebrities, including rappers Kanye West, Nas and Busta Rhymes, have also publicly expressed support through social media. Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons also brought a videographer to the Florida Capitol to capture the sit-in on his news and entertainment website, Global Grind.

For more information, contact Erika Maye at emaye@advancementproject.org or 678-478-1808.


By Matt Horn
August 2, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - For the third weekend in a row, the Dream Defenders plan on camping out inside the state capitol. They say sleeping on the hard marble floor is a small sacrifice for the greater good.

It’s an indescribable feeling inside the Florida Capitol at the end of the business day. With an exception of a group of officers, state workers are nowhere to be found. But, this group of protesters fill the rotunda, making their message heard crystal clear. When you enter the state capitol its a known – you’re in for the night. If you leave, you’re locked out until the next business day. It’s a challenge the Dream Defenders have been faced with for nearly three weeks.

“It’s just continuous, 24/7 almost,” said Ciara Taylor, Jacksonville.

Settling in for the night, it’s quick to see the amount of unity among the supporters. “I think you’ve seen what we’re doing here, it touches a lot of peoples lives,” said Curtis Hierro, Orlando.

At the same time, a group of officers keep an eye on the group from afar.

Beds lining the halls are a reminder of the groups message that they aren’t going anywhere. “It’s just something the state of Florida needs to address and not act like this isn’t real,” said Jonel Edwards, Miramar.

With help of supporters nationwide — this group of protesters is working to make monumental changes. They continue to demand Governor Rick Scott call a special session of the legislature to address racial profiling, the stand your ground law and the school-to-prison pipeline.

“I think that passion just keeps us going and motivated. Because, some days are really hard, some more than others,” said Taylor.

As darkness rises over the state capitol for another night, The group inside the capitol is a reminder to the state and nation – the fight is still fresh; and they will stay put until change comes to Florida.

Around 30 stayed at the capitol from across the eastern United States Thursday night.


Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A standoff between protesters and Gov. Rick Scott is showing no signs of ending anytime soon.

The protesters angered by the verdict In the George Zimmerman trial have spent a week at the Capitol. On Monday, they repeated demands that Scott call a special session and ask legislators repeal Florida's "stand your ground" law.

The law allows someone to use deadly force if they believe their life is in danger.

Scott, however, in a brief availability with reporters said he will not call a special session and that he still supports the state's self-defense laws.

The governor, however, did direct the head of the Department of Juvenile Justice to meet with protesters to discuss their concerns. They have complained laws dealing with juveniles wind up pushing them into adult prisons.


By Bailey Myers
July 21st, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - We're into day six of a sit-in at the Florida Capitol. Activists are waiting for the Governor to call a special Legislative Session to address the state's 'Stand Your Ground Law'. The group Dream Defenders have been taking part in a sit in at the Capitol all weekend.

Night and day the members have been sitting in the Capitol lobby without things like air-conditioning or showers. That's because the second they walk out the Capitol doors, they're not supposed to be able to get back in.

We were curious to find out how exactly they were feeding themselves without having true access to the outside world, and found out they are getting a little bit of extra help. Florida Legislators have access to the Capitol at all times so they have been supplying these activists with the essentials.

Florida Representative, Alan William's explained, "You know, whenever they are supporting legislation that many of my colleges in the Democratic Caucus believe is the right way to go we are going to try and provide support."

Monday night the NAACP will be hosting a Town Hall Meeting discussing the effects the George Zimmerman Trial has had on the community. Local and State Attorneys will be there to discuss the outcome of the case and Florida's 'Stand your ground' law. It all starts at 6:00 PM at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center.

Governor Rick Scott has already met with the Dream Defenders and says he will not hold a special Legislative Session. Despite the meeting, the activists say they will still stay at the Capitol until that happens.


By James Buechele
July 19, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - Today is day four of the sit-in at Florida Governor Rick Scott's office.

Despite Governor Scott meeting with the Dream Defenders last night, the organization still isn't satisfied.

There are not plans on backing down. So, the group is preparing for the weekend.

They were part of an NAACP rally that is gaining praise statewide by the Florida president of the NAACP. Even though Governor Scott said he will not hold a special legislative session, the Dream Defenders say they hope with more awareness other legislatures will put some pressure on the governor.The Dream Defenders hope that if they can get more done when it comes to Florida laws.

Phillip Agnew, Executive Director of Dream Defenders: "We are here excited to see what happens when an unmoveable object meets a seemingly unmoveable object."

Many people in the community have praised the group but it's still unlikely the governor will budge on his stance not to hold a special session.

Now on Saturday, marches and demonstrations across the country will happen to demand these same types of goals that the Dream Defenders here in Tallahassee are asking for.


By Mike Vasilinda
July 18, 2013

For the third day in a row protestors are waiting for the Governor to meet with them to change the Stand Your Ground Law. The pressure is increasing from the capitol, and nationwide.

The heat is being turned up at the Governor’s office, as protestors hold a sit-in for the third day.

”We’re here and not going anywhere.”

The Governor was in South Florida this afternoon. In 2012 – the governor created a task force to look into the Stand Your Ground Law. After last weekend’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, he says he doesn’t think the law needs changed. ”They concluded they didn’t need to make a change to the law and I agree with their conclusion.”>

Reverend R. B. Holmes was the task force vice chairman – who looked into the Stand Your Ground law. ”Look at the recommendations that we made. Just don’t say no changes. We made some real strong recommendations,” says Reverend R. B. Holmes.

State Senator John Thrasher says there are ways to make your voice heard, but doesn’t think the sit-in is the way to do it. ”Not to stand in front of my door protesting, that’s not the way to do it,” says Sen. John Trasher.

Regardless, protestors say they will wait for Rick Scott at the capitol.

As protestors continue to wait for Governor Scott, volunteers continue to bring them food to make sure they stay fed at the sit-in. Nationally, entertainers like Stevie Wonder are telling fans to boycott Florida until changes are made.

“Until the Stand Your Ground Law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again,” says Stevie Wonder, Courtesy of Youtube.

But protestors say a boycott will speak louder than words.

The number of protestors who stayed overnight in the capitol nearly doubled from Tuesday night through Wednesday night; with more expected tonight.


By Matt Horn
July 17, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - After nearly 36 hours protestors still fill the Governor’s Office demanding change in Florida. When talking to the protestors, they say the crowd will continue to grow.

Chants continue to fill Governor Rick Scott’s office – as the second day of the sit-in protest is underway. Protestors continue to wait for the Governor, who is back in Florida. They want to meet with Rick Scott after the George Zimmerman verdict this past weekend. They have three demands they want addressed: racial profiling, the Stand Your Ground law, and the War on Youth.

Executive Director for Dream Defenders Phillip Agnew says, “People from around the country are watching. I think the Governor has an interesting opportunity to prove his commitment to the future of youth in this state.”

According the Governor’s Press Office, the governor is not scheduled to be back in the capitol anytime Wednesday.

Protestors say they’ll wait until their demands are met. In regards to waiting, more than 30 protestors slept in the Capitol Tuesday night.

Protester Sherika Shaw who stayed over night said, “You know we all have beds at home, but we’re making the best of it because we’re dedicated.”

Those who stayed overnight say it’s not the most ideal; but they are willing to sleep on the capitol floor to prove they are serious about changes coming to Florida.

When asked what kind of impact is shown by staying at the Capitol, Shaw said, “It shows our resilience and shows how passionate we are about the Trayvon Martin case and how passionate we are on our future.”

As time progresses more people have been coming to Tallahassee from across Florida and neighboring states. Protestors say if the governor doesn’t agree to the demands; the crowds will get larger and louder.

“We’re still willing to meet, it will escalate, more people will come, he’ll get visitors,” said Agnew.

Even though the crowds may get bigger, protestors say they still plan on remaining peaceful.

Around 2 Wednesday afternoon, the NAACP asked to speak with the Chief of Staff at the Governor’s Office. Sources say the Chief of Staff never came out to meet with the group. Protestors are planning on staying overnight, again.


Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Protesters upset with the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial are remaining at the Capitol even though Gov. Rick Scott has said no to their demands.

Scott has yet to set foot in the Capitol since a group of young protesters began occupying his office on Tuesday. The small group wants the governor to call a special session and ask legislators to change the state's self-defense laws.

During a Pensacola stop Scott said it was "great" that people were using their free-speech rights. But he would not say if he planned to meet with the protesters.

The governor also maintained his stance that there is no need to change Florida's "stand your ground" law.

Steven Pargett said protesters will "wait" and "wait" for their demands to be met.


By: Lanetra Bennett
July 17, 2013, 11:20 a.m.

About 30 people stayed overnight, and roughly that many people are at the Capitol to meet with the Governor now.

They're expecting a small group of high school students from Miami to arrive shortly. Once that group gets here, they're going to walk inside of the Governor's office to request another meeting.


By: Lanetra Bennett
July 17, 2013, 11 a.m.

A group of high school students have arrived from Miami, from the same school district that Trayvon Martin went to.

A 9-year-old boy led the protesters inside of the governor's office to request a meeting.

When told the governor wasn't in again today, the child said they'll wait. The group is now sitting and waiting inside of the office.


By Lanetra Bennett
July 17, 2013, 10 a.m.

Tallahassee FL - The Dream Defenders, along with local students and protesters, remain camped out today at the Capitol building in Tallahassee.


By Bailey Myers
July 16, 2013

Tallahassee FL - A sit-in occurred Tuesday night at Florida's Capitol-- and the group involved wants answers in light of the George Zimmerman verdict. They call themselves the 'Dream Defenders'-- and they want Governor Rick Scott to call a special session for the legislature, but as you can the doors are locked.

Capitol security locked the doors at 5 p.m. with around 30 'Dream Defenders' members inside.

This same group marched on the Capitol Saturday after the Zimmerman verdict came down, demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. They're asking state lawmakers to take another look at the 'Stand Your Ground' law. The law was initially applied to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, but later taken off the table. Dream Defenders hope through this protest, their voices will be heard.

Dream Defender, Melanie Andrade, said, "We have one goal and that is to speak to Governor Scott and have a special session convened. If he says 'no', then we are going to have to stay here. I mean, we are just not going to leave."

Governor Rick Scott was in New York City today, but that did not stop these protesters from making sure they took a stand in the state capitol. So far, Governor Scott has not said anything about holding a special session.

Dream Defenders we spoke with earlier today tell me they're a little uncomfortable tonight, but add it's a small price to pay while spreading their message.


By Lanetra Bennett
July 16, 2013

Tallahassee, FL- Residents in the Tallahassee area are still responding to the George Zimmerman verdict.

Supporters of Trayvon Martin took to the streets again Tuesday. This time, their march ended with a sit-in inside of the office of Florida Governor Rick Scott.

"Whose world is this? The world is ours! The world is ours!" That was the chant as the organization Dream Defenders led a couple of hundred people into Florida Governor Rick Scott's office Tuesday.

Protesters loudly and proudly made their presence known. "What are we here for? We're here for Trayvon!" They said.

The college students, community leaders, and members say George Zimmerman's 'not guilty' verdict is a sign that state laws need to change.

FSU student Adam Russell says, "We can't have these terrible laws and these terrible legislators out here and then be upset when things like this happen. What we need to do is we need to change our government."

One supporter in the crowd says, "There's so much work to do and we're going to have to keep on fighting."

Members demand that Scott calls a special legislative session to address issues surrounding Trayvon Martin's death.

Dream Defenders member Dave Schneider says, "Stand Your Ground is a pretty clear example of something that also can change. But, more than that, we see that there's really no protections against racial profiling in the state of Florida. The fact of the matter is George Zimmerman targeted Trayvon because he was black."

Some protesters traveled from Central Florida to be a part of the event.

The group wants Governor Scott to create a new Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act.

Some of those who participated in the rally and sit-in plan to spend the night inside of the Capitol.


By Lanetra Bennett
July 16, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - Protesters are seeking justice in the Trayvon Martin case at the Capitol today.

The Dream Defenders demand that Governor Rick Scott call a special session of the Florida Legislature to address the issues at the center of the Trayvon Martin tragedy.

Group members say those issues are stand your ground vigilantism, racial profiling, and a war on youth that paint young people as criminals, as well as funnel them out of school and into jails.

During this special session, the group is demanding of lawmakers to create a new Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act for the State of Florida.


Press Release: Dream Defenders

Statewide Day of Action in Florida for Trayvon Martin

WHO: Dream Defenders and student, youth and community supporters throughout the state of Florida.

WHAT: Direct Action at places of interest.

WHEN: Tuesday, July 16, 2013

WHERE: Florida Capitol Building / other locations | 400 South Monroe St, Tallahassee, FL 32399

WHY: Dream Defenders are demonstrating and organizing pressure in response to the ‘not guilty’ verdict in the State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman trial and other civil rights issues in the state of Florida.

Dream Defenders have also released this statement:

“Our thoughts are with Trayvon Martin’s family, who unfortunately will never have their son back. This is a true American tragedy for every child, mother, father, brother and sister in the nation. This is a reminder that our communities still find themselves profiled, targeted and oppressed each day. The battle for true Justice in an unequal society is never simple. Florida has taken another one of ours. We must hold on to our anger in the face of the injustice and let the feelings of love for our community push us forward in fixing our broken society. We will never forget his name.

Dream Defenders are building in cities all over Florida taking on the criminalization of our youth, private prisons, and poverty. This is our problem to fix. If you’re ready to work, join us.”


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