Civil rights groups are petitioning Florida Governor Rick Scott to re-examine the state’s criminal justice system in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for killing Trayvon Martin.
Protesters filed into the Florida Capitol Tuesday sporting hoodies and signs that read “justice for Trayvon.” When they were told Governor Scott wasn’t in his office, they decided to wait for him anyway.
The Governor wasn’t in Tallahassee at all, because he’s been touring the talk show circuit in New York, touting his job creation record in advance of the 2014 election. But, Scott couldn’t escape questions from Bloomberg News reporters about the Zimmerman case. He says the jurors decided and the system worked.
“[Scott] We all wish we could bring him back. But, we have a sacred system that works,” Scott told Bloomberg News reporter Tom Keene.
The protesters- who call themselves the Dream Defenders agree the jurors did the best they could with the information they had. But Dream Defender Ciara Taylor said the protests aren’t about the verdict. They’re about Florida laws.
“You know, we don’t necessarily have anything against the jury at all. They did exactly what they felt was best. However, it’s the laws that made it possible for someone like George Zimmerman to get away with the crime that he committed,” Taylor clarified.
Zimmerman’s lawyers didn’t use the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law- which allows for people to use deadly force if they have a reasonable fear for their lives- in his defense. It’s a law Dream Defender Director Phillip Agnew said creates an environment that leads to more cases like Trayvon Martin’s.
“Right now were taking the ownership on ourselves and placing the blame on our leaders who allowed for an environment that criminalized a young black man and caused George Zimmerman to live in fear of a young kid who had nothing in his hands,” Agnew asserted.
Protesters are demanding the Governor order a special session of the legislature to pass a measure they’re calling the Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act of 2013, which would repeal “Stand Your Ground” and mandatory minimum sentencing in Florida. But Governor Scott told Bloomberg News this week he believes the matter was already settled by a task force he convened last year.
“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 said.
But Ciara Taylor doesn’t have a lot of faith in the taskforce’s recommendations.
“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.
A special session doesn’t seem likely as both the governor and most of the legislature support the law. But for now, the Dream Defenders are still occupying the governor’s office and say they won’t leave until their demands are met.
-Update: 05:16 pm-
Florida Governor released a statement saying he will not call a special session and he stands behind the task force's recommendation.