Protestors in his Tallahassee office, protestors at his Miami-Dade press conferences – Gov. Rick Scott is facing a state of opposition after the George Zimmerman verdict.
On Wednesday, as protestors gathered inside and out, Scott made a quick exit from a Kendall Walmart media event touting new school-supply debit cards of teachers and the upcoming school-supply sales-tax.
The protestors, mostly young Hispanic and African-Americans, want a special legislative session to address the Stand Your Ground self-defense law implicated in Zimmerman’s shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year. Zimmerman, acquitted July 13, didn't plead a Stand Your Ground defense, but was covered by its protections, which appeared in the jury instructions.
“Special session! Special session!” a group of 12 chanted from a sidewalk as Scott left out a backdoor.
Scott has refused.
Meantime, inside the halls of the governor’s office in Tallahassee, a group of college-aged minority students known as the Dream Defenders are calling for a special session as well.
Yesterday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson met with the students, called for a boycott of Florida. He has likened Florida to an Old South-style “apartheid state."
Scott said he was outraged.
“He ought to apologize to every Floridian,” Scott said. “We have nearly 20 million people, we’ve got 5 million multi-lingual speakers, we’re in a 42-year low in our crime rate. We care about people all across our state.”
Scott said he wants to keep the Stand Your Ground and has noted that a task force he appointed called for the law to largely stay intact.
The task force, though, did recommend that the Legislature consider examining some aspects of self-defense law and recommended that the state fund a study “of the correlation and causation to include variables such as race, ethnicity, gender, application and fairness of the law in regards to the expansion of self defense laws in the State of Florida, including a statistical comparison with other states.”
Asked if the state should heed that finding, Scott didn’t comment, but suggested he was open to the idea.
“As you know, the speaker said he was going to hold hearings during committee week to look into this,” Scott said.
Contrary to Jackson's claims, a Tampa Bay Times analysis could find no clear racial inequities with the law. It found that those who plead Stand Your Ground in cases where a black person was killed or injured are more likely, by 14 percentage points, to "walk free." But one reason for that: African-Americans who were shot were more likely than Caucasians to be involved with a crime or armed -- thereby lending credence to a self-defense claim by the shooter.
When the victim was black in fatal cases, 22 percent of suspects were convicted while 78 were found to use justifiable force. When the victim was white, 43 percent of suspects were convicted while 57 were found to use justifiable force.
For blacks pleading Stand Your Ground fatality cases, 31 percent were convicted while 69 percent of the killings were found to be justified. For whites pleading Stand Your Ground fatality cases, 38 percent were convicted and 62 percent were justified. The overall conviction rate: 35 percent. Overall justification rate: 65 percent.
But there was no time to get into all that with Scott on Wednesday.
While talking about Stand Your Ground, the protesors found him at a side entrace. They started chanting. At least one person had a bull horn.
Staff hastened to remove Scott, who also took two more questions about another controversy: Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett. When the AP broke the story, Scott didn’t have much to say about it yesterday.
So how about now?
“Everything I wanted to get done this session, Tony Bennett has been a big help getting it done – whether it’s the teacher pay raise, the $1.2 billion for K-12, the performance measurements for state colleges, the debit cards we talked about today,” Scott said. “Tony’s a hard worker. He believes in accountability. He’s a big help.”
Have you spoken to him about the situation in Indiana and what are your thoughts?
“I’m not familiar with the details. Probably the best thing to do is call Tony,” Scott said.