Florida governor holds emergency meeting with anti-Zimmerman protesters

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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Florida Gov. Rick Scott held an emergency meeting Thursday night with pro-Trayvon Martin protesters that staged a sit-in outside his office to demand an end to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

Scott, who has been under fire from activists in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in Martin’s death, met with protesters at the State Capitol and reminded them that he agrees with Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, but that he’s calling for a “statewide day of prayer for unity” to help people of all persuasions move beyond the verdict.

More than 100 protesters from the group Dream Defenders, which previously coordinated with a unit of the Obama administration’s Justice Department, descended upon the Florida state capitol Wednesday demanding to meet with Governor Scott to request that a special legislative session be held to repeal the state’s Stand Your Ground law, which Scott supports. Scott, who is facing tough re-election odds in 2014, initially showed no sign of desiring a meeting with protesters, but eventually caved in at 9 pm ET Thursday night, at the end of Day 2 of the protesters’ sit-in in the lobby of Scott’s office.

“I asked to meet with the protestors this evening to personally hear their concerns following the jury’s verdict in the Zimmerman case. I expressed my own sympathies for the Martin family and all those affected by Trayvon’s death. Earlier this evening, I also spoke to Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, to again give my condolences on the loss of her son and let her know that she and her family remain in our thoughts and prayers,” Scott said in a statement provided to The Daily Caller.

“Tonight, the protestors again asked that I call a special session of the Legislature to repeal Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. I told them that I agree with the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, which concurred with the law. I also reminded them of their right to share their views with their state legislators and let them know their opinions on the law,” Scott said.

“I also told them that I plan to call for a Statewide Day of Prayer for Unity in Florida this Sunday, July 21st. We have a great state with wonderful, resilient people that rise to meet any challenge. While emotions run high, it is even more important that we join together to strengthen and support one another,” Scott said in his statement.

Stand Your Ground questions have whipped the governor into a veritable panic — evidenced by his reaction to a reporter’s inquiry during an unrelated Thursday afternoon press conference in Tampa.

“Scott responded that he did not support getting rid of the law, but before he could elaborate, he was rushed out by his media relations team,” Central Florida News 13 reported Thursday afternoon. “No follow-up questions were allowed.”

Dream Defenders met with Sanford city officials in a 2012 meeting facilitated by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS), which, as The Daily Caller reported, spent taxpayer money facilitating anti-Zimmerman protests last year, before Zimmerman was formally charged with a crime. Dream Defenders organized successful 2012 marches in Florida calling for the arrest of Zimmerman and for the removal of then-Sanford police chief Bill Lee, who was later fired.

“Our vision is to unite and develop youth and students of color to lead the way in the fight against the criminalization and mass incarceration of many of us, of entire generations of our families, and of so many of our neighborhoods. Like Martin Luther King Jr. did, and millions of undocumented youth in this country do, we’re ready to defend our dreams,” said Dream Defenders organizer Gabriel Pendas, a former union organizer who helped start the group, which engages in “civil disobedience” and logged 15 arrests outside the presidential debates. The group has eight chapters, primarily located at Florida colleges.

Attorney General Eric Holder strongly criticized stand your ground laws in a speech this week before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which coordinated with the progressive activist group to push Holder to open a civil rights case against Zimmerman.

A spokesperson for Dream Defenders expressed enthusiasm to TheDC after the group’s meeting with Scott.

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