Sparse crowd as ‘Stand Your Ground’ meeting beginsby Dara Kam | June 12th, 2012
LONGWOOD _ There were plenty of satellite trucks and television cameras from national news outlets at a mega-church near the site where neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot and Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in February.
But just a handful of people showed up for Gov. Rick Scott’s “Citizen Safety and Protection Task Force” meeting – the first where the public will be allowed to speak – so far.
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the panel’s chairwoman, spoke with reporters before the meeting began at 9 a.m.
She said the task force’s mission is not to revisit the Trayvon Martin shooting or Zimmerman’s case. Zimmerman, who was charged with second degree murder in the shooting, claimed he shot Martin in self-defense, shining a spotlight on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law that allows people to use deadly force when they feel threatened.
Carroll said the first task force meeting is being held to near Sanford to give residents “closure” in the aftermath of the shooting. National civil rights leaders were outraged that Zimmerman was not arrested for weeks. Special prosecutor Angela Corey, appointed by Scott, filed charges against Zimmerman two months after the Feb. 26 shooting. Accusations of racism because Zimmerman is a white Hispanic and Martin was black heightened racial tensions in the Central Florida community on the outskirts of Orlando.
“Because this task force was borne out of the concerns during the Martin-Zimmerman situation, we felt it would be a good thing to number one come to this area to give some closure,” Carroll, who is black, said. “There may be some people that have not had an opportunity to air their concerns during the time of all the situation going on a few months ago. So it gives an opportunity for the citizens to come and share what their issues, concerns, suggestions may be and have some closure to them having access to their public officials and individuals that may be making decisions based on what we heard throughout our public testimony and the information received on our website as well.”
The meeting begins with a presentation from Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Krista Marx, who is giving an overview of the “Stand Your Ground” law and a seminal Florida Supreme Court ruling related to it. Law enforcement officials and lawyers will also speak this morning before the public is allowed to weigh in this afternoon. Martin’s parents are scheduled to hold a rally during the lunch break and deliver more than 300,000 petitions to the task force asking that the law be changed.
The panel is holding meetings throughout the state and will make recommendations to the state legislature about whether the law should be changed.