After staging a sit-in outside Gov. Rick Scott’s office at the Florida Capitol for the past 31 days, the Dream Defenders are ending their round-the-clock vigil.
They say they’ve accomplished many of the goals that they set for themselves when they arrived here on July 16. They organized the sit-in because they were upset with the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman.
The group called for a special legislative session focusing on Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, racial profiling by police, and zero-tolerance school policies.
They convinced House Speaker Will Weather to schedule a hearing on Stand Your Ground this fall.
They plan to meet with leaders at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to talk about racial profiling.
And they say they have a commitment from state education leaders to talk about policy adjustments to juvenile justice rules.
The Dream Defenders’ leader, Phillip Agnew, says the group will now launch a voter registration drive targeting politicians who don’t support the group’s issues.
“I am proud to announce that our work and our power has grown too big for these halls. It is time for the movement to continue and that this is the last time that I’m going to sleep on any floor.”
Agnew repeated the group’s goal of registering at least 61,550 new voters by the 2014 election. That was the margin of victory for Gov. Rick Scott in the 2010 election.
Agnew said the end of the Capitol vigil is the start of an effort called “Takeover Florida.”
“We will leave from here into every college and university around the state and this isn’t the last that you will hear of the Dream Defenders. This isn’t the last you will hear of our work. This isn’t the last time you will hear the question, ‘Can we dream together.’ So after 31 days and 30 nights we are indeed leaving the Capitol for our next phase.”
Longtime civil rights activist and former Georgia legislator Julian Bond joined the Dream Defenders at the state Capitol on Thursday.
He said their vigil over the past 31 days reminded him of himself when he was young.
“I say to the young people here, you’re ending a protest because you started a movement. And that movement is going to reverberate across the state of Florida and eventually the adjacent and adjoining states until all of America knows something about the strength and the power that was demonstrated here. It’s fitting that the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is occurring in a few days. That movement made this movement possible and that movement, your movement, gave our movement its legacy.”
Agnew said the Dream Defenders will join the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington later this month, commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and the group will get the chance to speak to the crowd during the event.