Hundreds of protesters, including the parents of Trayvon Martin and the mother of Jordan Davis, converged on the Florida state capitol on Tallahassee on Monday to demonstrate against that state’s controversial 'Stand Your Ground' law.
"To have laws that tell people that they can shoot first and then ask questions later is a violation of our civil rights. I believe that law is inherently wrong," the Rev. Al Sharpton said, speaking to the crowd of protesters. "The law in effect says based on your imagination — if you imagine I'm a threat — you have the right to kill me."
The march brought together not only the families of young Black men who had been killed in high profile cases, including the family of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Chicago youth who died at the hands of white assailants in Mississippi in 1955. It also drew the family of Marissa Alexander, who has been sentenced to prison for firing a warning shot at an abusive husband.
There were also many members of the clergy and leaders of national organizations who came to protest the law, which states that a person can legally use deadly force if there is a suspicion of eminent danger.
“It is important to be here because this is state where all this craziness started,” said Patricia Rosier, the president of the National Bar Association, in an interview with BET.com.
“These laws are spreading throughout the country and they are nothing more than shoot-to-kill, vigilante laws that are arbitrarily administered,” Rosier said. “They disproportionately affect Black men and they need to be repealed. They are wrong, they are intolerable and we are here to let the world know.”
The Republican-controlled Florida legislature has not taken any action to repeal or to make adjustments to the law, which gained national attention after Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black teenager, was shot by George Zimmerman in a suburb of Orlando two years ago. Zimmerman had considered invoking the 'Stand Your Ground' in his claim of self-defense, but later opted not to.
“This is so important because Florida is ground zero for the 'Stand Your Ground' issue,” said Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing the parents of Trayvon Martin, in an interview with BET.com. “This is the state where this terrible legislation was started and this is where it needs to be fixed.”
Another speaker at the rally was Alan B. Williams, a state representative in Florida and the chairman of the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators. Last year, Williams sponsored a bill to repeal the state’s 'Stand Your Ground' law, but it was defeated in committee. Florida Gov. Rick Scott declined to hold a special session to discuss the law, explaining that he approved of it.
“Today is another clarion call to Rick Scott that 'Stand Your Ground' has to change,” Williams said, speaking with BET.com. “Martin Luther King spoke about the urgency of now. Well, we must have a fierce urgency of now to repeal 'Stand Your Ground.' If not, we’ll miss a great opportunity to create justice for all.”
The protesters planned to attend House and Senate criminal justice committees in hopes of telling lawmakers they want them to consider action on the law.
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(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)