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2 posts from August 3, 2013

August 03, 2013

Dream Defenders willing to consider hearings as alternative to special session

The student activists camped outside Gov. Rick Scott's office were optimistic Friday when House Speaker Will Weatherford agreed to hold hearings on the Stand Your Ground self-defense law.

But there are still two other topics the group wants addressed.

Dream Defenders Director Phillip Agnew said the group is just as adamant that the Legislature take up racial profiling and the school-to-prison pipeline.

"Those other two pillars are just as important to us," Agnew said. "We've got some great ideas and we'd like to get them before a committee of lawmakers."

Agnew's Dream Defenders had pledged to continue their weeks-long occupation of the Florida Capitol until Scott called a special session on the three topics -- a demand has Scott refused. But on Saturday, Agnew said the group might be satisfied with hearings on each issue.

"We still believe a special session would be best, but there are other routes we can take," he said. "There was a stalemate. We don't want that. We recognize that there is still a lot more work for our young people to do."

Could this mean an end to the protest?

Agnew said there are no plans to bring the occupation to an end. Rapper Talib Kweli is planning to come by Thursday.

But this could be the start of an endgame.

Rap star Talib Kweli plans to visit Dream Defender protest outside Rick Scott's office


First, it was a Tweet from the rapper Nas.

Then legendary entertainer and civil-rights activist Harry Belafonte paid a visit to the Miami-based youth activists known as the Dream Defenders, who have spent nearly three weeks camped outside Gov. Rick Scott's office.

Then came Jesse Jackson, followed by activist and poet Kevin Powell.

Now Talib Kweli, one of the biggest names in thoughtful rap is planning to come by Thursday and lend his support, according to the group's organizer, Phillip Agnew.

The Dream Defenders have demanded Scott call a special session to address the Stand Your Ground self-defense law, racial profiling and the school-to-prison pipeline. They don't care that Scott has refused. The Dream Defenders say they won't leave until their demands are met.

Yesterday, some of their nonviolent protesting paid off when the House announced hearings into the self-defense law connected to the shooting death of Miami Gardens 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

The Dream Defenders, who began their protest July 16, three days after George Zimmerman's not guilty verdict in the case, has been allowed to stay in the Capitol on nights and weekends, though the number of protesters has been dwindling in recent days.

Visits like Talib Kweli's, and press from Michael Skolnik's Global Grind, are a must to help keep the group's message in the media and in the public.  (One Talib Kweil line from an old tracks, "Sharp Shooters," is particularly apt: "Know your gun laws.")

So the Dream Defenders might be there for the long haul. At this rate, the group could be in the Capitol until the first Tuesday in March, when the regular legislative session begins. And chances are slim that the Republican-controlled Legislature will change Stand Your Ground or reform the prison system amid protests from liberal-leaning activists.

But stranger things have happened.

--with Kathleen McGrory