Taxpayers' Bill $100,000 and Counting for Dream Defenders' Protest
Around the State
Florida taxpayers so far have paid $97,970.88 to keep the state Capitol secure during the student Stand Your Ground protest, now in its eighth day.
The protesters, through the organizaton Dream Defenders, swelled into the Capitol's first floor 100 strong last Tuesday to demand vindication for the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teenager, killed by an Hispanic neighborhood watcher while walking home from a Sanford convenience store. When a six-woman jury called it self-defense, a large chunk of America erupted.
Through the weekend the number of protesters dwindled to 24 in the hallway outside Gov. Rick Scott's office, under the watch of Capitol police. But more are expected.
So far, the protest has been peaceful and the police incident report light (see attachment below).
They say they will remain at the Capitol until a special legislative session is called on the Stand Your Ground law. But Scott, who met with the group Thursday, made it clear he has no intention of bringing lawmakers back or reversing his support for the nine-year-old law. He also advised them to contact their district representatives to discuss their views of the law, and said he is open to their ideas about fighting racial profiling. He also called a day of prayer.
"They've asked for something that, you know, I'm not going to do, I'm not going to call a special session," Scott told reporters.
The protest does present a bill to taxpayers, particularly for security. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement Tuesday released its day-by-day estimate of security costs, for a total of $97,970.88:
- Monday – July 15; $5,235.37
- Tuesday – July 16; $14,336.09
- Wednesday – July 17; $14,336.09
- Thursday – July 18; $19,081.67
- Friday – July 19; $14,336.09
- Saturday – July 20; $8,218.62
- Sunday – July 21; $8,763.50
- Monday – July 22; $13,663.45.
Democratic state Rep. Alan Williams, a Florida A&M University alum whose district includes the campus where many of the students are, or were, enrolled, is among the Democratic lawmakers who have come to the Dream Defenders' aid.
“Night and day the (protesters) have been sitting in the Capitol lobby without things like air-conditioning or showers,” said Bailey Myers, a reporter at WCTV-6 in Tallahassee.
“That’s because the second they walk out the Capitol doors, they're not supposed to be able to get back in. We were curious to find out how exactly they were feeding themselves without having true access to the outside world, and found out they are getting a little bit of extra help. Florida legislators have access to the Capitol at all times, so they have been supplying these activists with the essentials.”
Williams acknowledged he pulled strings behind the scene to keep the students fed. “You know," he told reporters, "whenever they are supporting legislation that many of my colleges in the Democratic Caucus believe is the right way to go, we are going to try and provide support.”
Williams' office confirmed the "aid" students are receiving is coming from private sources, not from taxpayers.
Protesters are staging a mock legislative hearing next week to examine Trayvon Martin's killing.
Spokeswoman for Dream Defenders Erika Maye enumerated in a press release a scatter-gun-shot of items to be fake-legislated. Among them: Stand Your Ground laws, the circumstances leading to Trayvon Martin’s February 2012 shooting, the so-called school-to-prison pipeline and racial profiling.
During the session, the group is set to introduce “Trayvon’s Law,” a bill that proposes to “fix” Florida's "broken" environment.
“Florida is in a state of emergency,” said Dream Defender Executive Director Phillip Agnew in a written statement, "... In failing to recognize the gravity of the need for change in this moment, Governor Scott is not exercising real leadership. So we’ll do it for him.”
The Dream Defenders' website includes on-site cam coverage. It also has a page calling for more volunteers at the Capitol and one listing items to bring along: pillow, sleeping bag/air mattress, one change of clothes, sweatshirt, T-shirts/tank tops, underwear, socks, comfortable shoes (gym shoes recommended), shower shoes, toiletries, vitamins, pain reliever, muscle rub and phone charger.
Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews or at 228-282-2423.