Public Safety & Justice

Zimmerman Protesters Urge Rick Scott to Call Special Session

Action in response to the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial continues to sweep the nation, as lawmakers, preachers, students and others took to Washington, Tallahassee, Orlando and beyond to gear up for protests and rallies through the week.
by | July 17, 2013

By Jerriann Sullivan and Arelis Hernandez

Action in response to the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial continues to sweep the nation, as lawmakers, preachers, students and others took to Washington, Tallahassee, Orlando and beyond to gear up for protests and rallies through the week.

Standing outside the U.S. Justice Department building in Washington on Tuesday, a group of black preachers surrounding the Rev. Al Sharpton pledged to hold peaceful protests in 100 U.S. cities this weekend pressing for federal civil-rights or hate-crime charges against Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

A Seminole County jury on Saturday found George Zimmerman, 29, not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2012 shooting. Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, said he shot the unarmed, black 17-year-old in self-defense.

"People all over the country will gather to show that we are not having a two- or three-day anger fit," said Sharpton, a television host, civil-rights advocate and founder of the National Action Network, which has chapters all over the country.

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Sharpton said the Saturday NAN demonstrations -- Orlando is one of the sites -- were planned to push not just for new charges against Zimmerman, but also to repeal Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law.

The DOJ said Martin's death remains under investigation. On Monday, it convened a conference call with civil-rights and community leaders to solicit help in that investigation. And Tuesday, it launched an email address that can be used to send in tips in the Zimmerman investigation. That address is Sanford.Florida@usdoj.gov

Roughly 60 protesters filled Gov. Rick Scott's office in Tallahassee on Tuesday morning demanding to meet with the governor and calling for a special session to address issues surrounding Trayvon's shooting death.

The group, comprised of members of Florida New Majority, Dream Defenders and other student activists, said it wouldn't leave Scott's office until he agreed to meet with them in person. Scott is in New York for the day, but organizers say they would wait, even if that meant staying all night. They want Scott to call a special session to address racial profiling and Florida's "stand your ground" law.

On Tuesday in Orlando, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, said the governor should enlist the Florida Commission on Human Relations to help address the issues communities statewide are grappling with in the wake of the verdict. Along with three other state democratic legislators, Thompson vowed to launch a bipartisan effort to amend the state's "stand your ground" law.

"For the most part Florida officials have been silent, but the verdict that came down in Florida vs. Zimmerman rests squarely on the shoulders of the Florida Legislature," Thompson said. "Florida has to fix this problem because Florida created this problem."

The Governor's Office responded late in the day with a written statement. It said in part: "Immediately following Trayvon Martin's death, Governor Scott called a bi-partisan Special Task Force with 19 citizens to review Florida's Stand Your Ground Law. This Task Force listened to Floridians across the state and heard their [viewpoints] and expert opinions on this law. The task force recommended that the law should not be overturned, and Governor Scott agrees."

(c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel

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