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Protesters ring in opening day of Session with boisterous chants

Florida’s lawmakers, elected officials and other dignitaries were welcomed to this year’s legislative session with boisterous protests by more than 100 young people Tuesday, as activists voiced their displeasure with the government.

The activists, led by a group called the Dream Defenders, lined up in the halls of the Capitol and sung protest songs and chanted "the state is ours!"

“We who believe in dreams, cannot rest until it’s won,” the group of protesters sung repeatedly, replacing the word ‘dreams’ with various issues like immigration, students, the future, education, equality and freedom.

The Dream Defenders, a group created in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting last year, has released its list of legislative priorities, including issues like gun control, immigration reform and voting rights.

"We are here on this first day of session to address real concerns with real solutions," said Phillip Agnew, a 27-year-old FAMU graduate. Agnew and others, many holding dramatic black signs with white
typeface, implored Scott to repeal the controversial Stand Your Ground law and put an end to racial profiling. 

The group supports a repeal of the Stand Your Ground law, which grants immunity for people who use deadly force in self-defense.

 It also supports in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants and a “voter access guarantee” voting rights bill sponsored by Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee. Protesters_DreamDefenders3.5.13

The group also opposes the “school-to-prison” pipeline, and things like the “zero-tolerance” policy in schools.

“Mama, mama, can’t you see, what Scott has done for me,” they chanted. “He keeps trying to hold us down. So we’re marching into town.”

Rene Stoval, of God is Able Outreach in Orlando, said her church and others drove up to the Capitol in Tallahassee to make their voice known on Florida’s tough mandatory sentencing laws, which she opposes.

“Florida’s urban communities are being decimated,” reads a pamphlet distributed by Stoval. “Fathers and sons and other parts of families are being warehoused together in prison.”

The protestors intensified their chanting as lawmakers walked into the Chambers to hear Gov. Rick Scott make his state of the State address.

Kat McGrory contributed to this article.

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