Tallahassee, FL - Students at Florida colleges are making the issue of voter suppression a top priority this fall. On Sept. 4, a student civil rights group, Dream Defenders, protested Florida’s racist voter suppression laws. Students from Florida State University (FSU) and FAMU (Florida A&M University) organized a campus rally with dozens of student activists chanting, "Hey hey, ho, ho, the new Jim Crow has got to go!"
The protesters planned to confront reactionary Republican Governor Rick Scott, slated to speak at FSU’s campus. According to the FSU College Republicans, Scott canceled 45 minutes before the speaking engagement due to “scheduling conflicts.”
"We showed our dissent and discontent and made our voices heard against this racist piece of legislation," said Dream Defender organizer Kristen Bonner. "The bill is discriminatory and seeks to oppress the Black and Latino vote of Florida and silence the voices of people of color, who are holding on to one of the last few rights we have as a community."
The Dream Defenders are a growing movement, with campus chapters forming across Florida. The students demand that Governor Rick Scott suspend the voter suppression law while reinstating civil rights for non-violent ex-offenders. Scott extended to five years the time that non-violent ex-offenders had to wait before full restoration of their civil rights. The Republican governor’s move targets African-American and Latino communities in terms of their participation in elections.
"Decades ago, great men and women risked their lives for basic freedoms that weren't being extended to African-Americans and other people of color. Some paid the ultimate price fighting for them,” said Michael Sampson, Dream Defender organizer. "These new laws and continued policies being pushed by the reactionary right wing of this country represents a new Jim Crow and a new Juan Crow, and we must continue to organize and fight back against these oppressive measures to truly win freedom and power for our communities."
Dream Defenders is an organization founded as a response to the murder of Trayvon Martin by the racist vigilante George Zimmerman on Feb. 26. Dream Defenders demands equality and protests injustices perpetrated against African-American and Latino peoples. The group is responsible for the three-day march from Daytona Beach to Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon was murdered. In an act of civil disobedience, the Dream Defenders shut down the Sanford Police Headquarters on April 9. George Zimmerman was finally arrested a few days later.
For their next step, Dream Defenders are planning a teach-in on how to organize against voter suppression, Sept. 27, at Florida State University.