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Protesters stand up to ‘stand your ground,’ but law likely to stay

CNN News Wire | 7/19/2013, 1:07 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Rick Scott met with protesters overnight and defended his position to not amend his state’s ...
CNN iReporter Michael Kandel followed protestors around the streets of Washington, D.C., after George Zimmerman was found 'not guilty' of second degree murder on July 13, 2013. Michael Kandel

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Rick Scott met with protesters overnight and defended his position to not amend his state’s controversial “stand your ground” law.

“Tonight, the protesters again asked that I call a special session of the legislature to repeal Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law,” Scott said in a written statement. “I told them I agree with the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, which concurred with the law.”

Scott issued a proclamation Friday for a “statewide day of prayer for unity.” The proclamation calls Trayvon Martin’s death a tragedy, notes that “emotions are running high” and calls for Floridians to show unity.

Earlier, Scott said that he mourns with Martin’s parents, but that he stands by the findings of the task force, which consulted with citizens and experts.

The protesters are students and members of Dream Defenders, an activist group that participates in civic engagement and promotes nonviolent social change.

They walked into Scott’s office Wednesday, led by Amon Gabriel, 9, and asked to speak to the governor.

After the protesters camped there for three days, Scott met with them overnight and told them he has not changed his position. The Dream Defenders say they will continue their sit-in until their demand is met.

“We’d like the repeal of ‘stand your ground’ or some type of modification where we can hold people responsible to a level that humanity expects, where we don’t have 17-year-olds getting gunned down with no justice for them and their families,” said the group’s legal and policy director, Ahmad Abuznaid.

A call for reforms

On Thursday, Florida officials joined state House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston in urging that reforms be made to the controversial law.

One of those officials, Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith, is refiling his legislation to change “stand your ground.”

“We have a clear case that shows SYG has very troubling problems, and those problems are central to the well-being of Floridians,” he said.

Though former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman’s defense never cited “stand your ground” laws in its case, the jury was instructed to consider them during deliberations. The jury acquitted Zimmerman of all charges Saturday in the 2012 shooting death of Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old.

The Florida version of the law states, “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

Eight other states have laws worded similarly, while 22 total states, including Florida, have laws stating that residents have no “duty” to retreat from a would-be attacker, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Civil rights groups attack the laws as racially motivated and are planning nationwide demonstrations. Stevie Wonder is refusing to perform in any state with such a law.