Governor Scott Says He Won't Call Special Session, Protesters Vow To Stay Until He Does

Jul 19, 2013

Protesters crowd the governor's office on Tuesday
Credit R.Benk / WFSU-News

Protesters filed into Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office Tuesday demanding to meet with him about the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. But, the governor wasn’t in, and wouldn’t be for the next three days.  Demonstrators demanded Scott call a special session to review the controversial law that they say led to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who says he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense.  The governor eventually met with the protesters late Thursday and reiterated what he said during a TV interview with Bloomberg News reporters on Monday.

“After this happened I put together a bi-partisan taskforce to go look at it and they came back and they said we shouldn’t make any changes,” Scott stated.

During his half-hour meeting with the activist group Dream Defenders Scott said he sympathized with the family of Trayvon Martin but that further review of the self-defense law wasn’t needed. But, Dream Defender Ciara Taylor thought the taskforce the governor assembled a year ago was a sham.

“The problem with that is all those people already supported stand your ground to begin with. So, even when we were told that the committee was convening we knew that it was a sham. We knew that it was a joke. So, we’re asking for a real analysis of stand your ground and how it disproportionately affects young people and black and brown people,” Taylor said.

And, there were those on the taskforce, including Tallahassee Pastor R.B. Holmes, who opposed the law. Holmes said the group gave the governor eight options and he’s overlooking most of them.

“So if you’re going to quote amendment one, not amendment one, but the first recommendation, then what about the other seven?” Holmes remarked.

Supporters of the “Stand Your Ground” law point out it wasn’t even used in the Zimmerman trial, so to call for its review is superfluous. But Tallahassee Democratic State Representative Alan Williams, who tried to repeal the law last legislative session, said even though there was no stand your ground motion, the law was central to the case.

“And we have to correct our court system in the fact that they gave the jury instructions that including stand your ground. So, for folks who say that stand your ground was not involved at any point, yes it was,” Williams declared.

Meanwhile protesters say they’re unsatisfied with their meeting with Governor Scott. They want the governor to call a special session to pass a new civil rights law. Dream Defender Director Philip Agnew explained the measure will address Stand Your Ground, mandatory minimum sentencing and racial profiling.

“We’re here in support of what we’re calling the Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act of 2013. It includes a list of items that we think contributed to the environment that created George Zimmerman and snuffed out Trayvon Martin,” Agnew said.

Not everyone is calling for an entirely new law. Trayvon Martin’s parents are asking for an amendment to the Stand Your Ground statute. Their amendment would clarify that someone can’t claim Stand Your Ground if they’re the aggressor, in response to the fact it was Zimmerman who first pursued Martin. But, Representative Williams said whether the law is amended or repealed, something needs to be done.

“I support action on the stand your ground laws. You know, we have said from the very beginning that we have given this legislature options. We gave the legislature an option for full on repeal or to reform. You know, we want action, we want leadership,” Williams asserted.

Governor Rick Scott remains steadfast in his opposition to reviewing the law in a special session but, is asking for a statewide day of prayer this Sunday.