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Dream Defenders confront lawmakers, Governor Scott, at opening of legislative session

By staff |
March 9, 2014
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Dream Defenders protest in Florida Capitol building
Dream Defenders protest in Florida Capitol building (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Tallahassee, FL – About 150 members of Dream Defenders, an organization dedicated to fighting against racism while building the power of Black and Brown youth, marched into the Florida Capitol, March 3 to confront the Florida law makers and Governor Rick Scott with chants and protest on the first day of legislative session.

The Dream Defenders started with a press conference, where speakers denounced Governor Rick Scott’s draconian policies directed against Black and Brown youth and told how racism is still alive and killing our children in Florida.

“Look around you,” said Amanda Merced, member of FSU Dream Defenders, “We’re in a war zone,” describing Florida’s political climate.

Speakers blasted racist laws like ‘Stand Your Ground,’ the school-to-prison pipeline, and the murders of black youth like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis.

“We’re out here with Dream Defenders from chapters all over Florida to make it known that America never loved us, Governor Scott never loved us and this criminal injustice system never loved us,” said Regina Joseph, Vice-president of the FSU Dream Defenders.

After the press conference the Dream Defenders marched to the fourth floor of the capitol building and formed two lines in between the Senate and House chambers, as politicians gathered for the first day ceremonial legislative services. Dream Defenders sang, “Mama, can’t you see, what the system’s done to me,” to the chagrin of Capitol Police and the Senate Sergeant at Arms, who rushed to shut down the chants.

“You can’t sing or chant in here or you’ll get kicked out and arrested,” said the Sergeant at Arms of the Florida Senate.

However, Dream Defenders organizer Michael Sampson kept singing and chanting as Capitol police approached him and the other protesters.

“They thought they could intimidate and scare us from using our voice,” said Sampson. “However we kept chanting and we kept disturbing business as usual because that’s what it takes for these corrupt politicians to understand that we’re serious.”

Jacques Jean-Pierre, of FSU Dream Defenders, spoke of his first direct action, “Mike [Michael Sampson] was the first to be told to shut up to his face by an angry security guard. But he stood his ground and gave us all strength to persevere. They had no choice but to let us be.”

Phillip Agnew , executive director of Dream Defenders addressed the crowd after the Capitol Police scare tactics: “They want us to be quiet or leave. You know what we’re gonna do? We ain’t going nowhere. We ain’t going nowhere. Turn up! Turn up! Turn up!”

Dream Defender Elijah Armstrong led chants of, “We fired! We can’t take it no more!” Regional organizer Sherika Shaw led chants of “Who are we? Good kids! Who are we? Good kids! Where are we? Mad cities! Where are we? Mad cities!”

Members of the Florida legislature were even tweeting during the session that they could hear the Dream Defender chants inside the Senate and House chambers.

Governor Scott was slated to give his State of the State address at noon in the House Chambers. The Dream Defenders positioned themselves in front of the House Chambers to directly confront him before he entered. Unlike most past governors delivering State of the State addresses, Scott avoided the protesters and found a way in the House Chambers through back way passages.

“He was cowardly,” said Tallahassee Dream Defender activist Delance Burnsides. “If you look at it from a political image standpoint, he conceded power to us because he feared us.”

The Dream Defenders is the same organization that held the historic Florida Capitol occupation for 30 days last summer, demanding Justice for Trayvon Martin, after the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman.

Governor Scott and the Republican-dominated legislature passed legislation earlier this week, inspired by the last year’s Dream Defenders occupation of the Capitol that bars protesters from staying overnight in the capitol.

“He’s doing everything to close us out and close the people out,” said Dream Defender Brian Marshall, President of the FSU chapter of Dream Defenders. “They can try to keep us out all they want but best believe we’re ready and we’re coming.”

Currently Dream Defenders is involved with numerous campaigns addressing racial injustice including pushing legislation to repeal Stand Your Ground law, the school-to-prison pipeline, along with campus campaigns, including university divestment from private prisons at the University of Central Florida, Justice for Reefa Hernandez (a young latino male killed by police brutality) in Miami, fighting for Black and Brown studies, and against racist hate speech at FSU.

To learn more visit dreamdefenders.org.