King of Calypso to join Dream Defenders Capitol takeoverby Dara Kam | July 25th, 2013
Support is swelling for the Dream Defenders Florida Capitol sit-in as state and national leaders plan to join in on the protest outside Gov. Rick Scott’s office.
Singer Harry Belafonte, best known for “The Banana Boat Song,” is slated to join the protest tomorrow. Dream Defenders Executive Director Phillip Agnew said he met Belafonte, a civil rights activist, in New York last month and that the singer/actor’s office reached out to him asking how Belafonte could support the cause.
A number of black pastors will join the sit-in later today and nearly two dozen could spend the night in the Capitol rotunda outside Gov. Rick Scott’s office where the protesters are now on their 10th day, Agnew said.
The group, comprised mainly of college students from around the state, staged the sit-in after George Zimmerman’s acquittal earlier this month. Zimmerman was accused of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, on Feb. 26, 2012. The protesters are seeking a repeal of the Florida’s first-in-the-nation stand your ground law that allows individuals who feel their lives are in danger to use deadly force without the obligation to retreat and provides immunity from prosecution. Although Zimmerman did not use the law to avoid a jury trial, stand your ground was part of the jury instructions and one juror blamed the law on the six-woman panel’s failure to convict Zimmerman.
Former Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, the state’s only official Democratic gubernatorial candidate, also said she plans to join the group this weekend. And the Rev. Al Sharpton said last week that he plans a stop in Tallahassee before an Aug. 24 march in Washington, D.C., commemorating the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech” half a century ago.
The protesters also are asking the state to reconsider laws and policies dealing with juvenile detention and school “zero tolerance” policies they say are responsible for Trayvon Martin winding up in Sanford on the night he was killed.
Scott and House and Senate leaders insist they will not reconsider the stand your ground law. But midway into their second week in the Capitol, Agnew said the protesters remain upbeat and gave no indication of giving up the fight.
“We’re increasing people power. And we’re applying pressure on the local level. We’re very excited. It’s almost Friday. Friday’s always awesome,” Agnew, a 28-year-old Florida A & M University graduate, said. “We’re really making the space our own. The Capitol is the people’s and we’re going to go stay there until we get something done.”