Capitol protests start third week

5:34 AM, Jul 30, 2013   |    comments
Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters meets with the Dream Defender protesters
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Today marks two weeks since the Dream Defenders first camped inside Florida's Capitol.

The protestors intend to stay as they continue to press for a special legislative session, consideration of changes to the state's Stand Your Ground law and debate of other issues involving racial profiling and juvenile justice policies.

By late Monday afternoon, roughly 15 protestors sat or stood in a circle in Gov. Rick Scott's office, discussing strategies and offering encouragement to each other. As many as 160 protestors and supporters flooded the Capitol over the weekend to spend the night.

At the conclusion of events on Friday, including a visit from renowned entertainer and civil-rights activist Harry Belafonte, some protesters crowded into the Capitol's first floor jumped in jubilant support. Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials were concerned about the portraits of past governors displayed in the hallway leading to the governor's office. Fewer than a dozen portraits were hung there, including former governors Charlie Crist, Jeb Bush, Lawton Chiles and Bob Graham.

"Those were taken down merely as a precautionary measure," said FDLE spokesperson Gretl Plessinger, adding the jumping at times shook the rotunda floor.

The original portraits were removed Monday morning by the Department of State. Plessinger said she didn't know when they'd be mounted back on the walls.

Food was scarce this weekend for protestors.

By Monday, food was not an issue.

"With the Capitol back open, we're able to get the food we need in and we just know not to rely on anybody to try to get us food after the time when the Capitol closes," Dream Defenders Executive Director Philip Agnew said.

Agnew and the group, are preparing for a mock legislative session today at the Old Capitol. Today's events will include an overview of topics to be discussed, panels and a number of proposed resolutions.

"This is just one tactic," Agnew said of the peaceful sit-in at Scott's office, noting two Dream Defenders are calling all Florida lawmakers to seek support for a special session. "We are securing the necessary petitions to force a poll of all lawmakers. We are changing hearts and minds every day we are here."

Gov. Rick Scott has rejected the group's call for a special session and reiterated his support for the state's Stand Your Ground law.

"We've come and presented a menu of options with which we would be willing to come to the table and negotiate and he's come with nothing," Agnew said of Scott.

A special session can also be called by both presiding officers of the Legislature, acting in tandem. Senate President Don Gaetz said Monday at a separate event that he did not support a special session.

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