Commentary: The Challenge to Repealing Stand Your Ground

The controversial Florida law is the focus of repeal efforts by a number of civil rights organizations and important national figures, but it’s an uphill battle.

Posted: 03/11/2014 02:54 PM EDT

By the count of the organizers and participants, more than 4,000 demonstrators descended upon the Florida state capitol in Tallahassee on Monday to protest the state’s monstrously unreasonable Stand Your Ground law.

The speeches were forceful and ardent from speakers who framed the controversial Florida law as a threat to justice and as legislation that promotes unreasonable — and deadly — vigilante passions. The rally included the families of some of the most renowned cases involving violence, from the parents of Trayvon Martin to the mother of Jordan Davis. To add historical poignancy, the event included the family of the late Emmett Till, the Black teenager who was killed nearly 60 years ago in a case of vigilante justice in Mississippi.

But now that the crowds have left Tallahassee’s capitol building grounds, the searing question is: Where does this movement to repeal Stand Your Ground laws go now?

In reality, the answer is not comforting or encouraging.

Florida, which has been ground zero for Stand Your Ground laws, has a Republican-controlled legislature that has shown not even the slightest reservation about the law, which legally enables a person to use deadly force so long as there is a suspicion that his or life may be in danger. The state’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, has rebuffed a recent effort to call a special session of the legislature to discuss reforming the law.

Getting the Florida legislature to revisit the issue in any long-lasting, meaningful way seems to be the consummate long shot.

Yet, this is a battle for the long haul. The important thing is that the people came to protest. And hopefully, they will continue to protest and to persuade their neighbors and friends to view this atrocious law with greater clarity.

But it is worth noting that the people demonstrated for an end to segregated schools in the 1940s, long before the United States Supreme Court banned that practice in 1954. People of all colors took to the streets in the 1960s to lend their voices to movements, years before a Voting Rights Bill was passed or before apartheid ended in South Africa.

Movements do, indeed, produce change. But that change is often the result of painstaking efforts, years of protests and strategizing. They quite often take extraordinary patience. Repealing Stand Your Ground laws certainly represents that kind of herculean commitment.

In the meantime, it will take the continued activism of a community of progressive-minded Americans to take this uphill journey. If they continue to be diligent, to be undeterred by the loud and for-the-moment powerful conservative forces in the country, there will one day be an end to Stand Your Ground.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

(Photo: AP Photo/Phil Sears)

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