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Jesse Jackson stands with Dream Defenders and calls for Florida boycott

6:43 PM, Jul 30, 2013   |    comments
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Tallahassee, Florida - Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson calls for a boycott of Florida because of the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law and voting policies.

On Tuesday, Jackson met with members of the Dream Defenders holding a sit-in at the state Capitol. They've been there day and night for 15 days.

RELATED: Dream Defenders continue protest, FDLE disputes lack of food

He called Tallahassee the Selma of our time, comparing the efforts of these Capitol protesters to the civil rights movement 50 years ago.

Jackson said Stand Your Ground laws today are similar to the rules 50 years ago banning African Americans from using public restrooms, water fountains and beaches.

He said there's a "toxic wind" blowing in Florida right now with its self-defense laws and zero-tolerance school policies. Martin was out of school serving a suspension when he was shot by George Zimmerman.

"Last year 2012, Trayvon Martin became a martyr because of the way he was killed and the killer set free. Trayvon was a canary in the mine. There are many more birds in that mine. Last year, 136 African Americans unarmed were killed in the country by police or by vigilantes or by security guards. The killing has to stop." said Jackson.

"We want laws that incentivize peace, not incentivize war. Stand Your Ground laws must end. We intend to sit in so justice can stand up."

Jackson called on state leaders to convene an emergency legislative session because, he said, people are hurting and Florida needs a plan to make everyone safer.

Otherwise, he warned, Florida could suffer economically.

"Until Florida changes its ways, until the toxic forces have been peeled back, we will discourage foreign investment, we will discourage tourism, we'll discourage conventions. Florida today is a very toxic place. It led the drive for these Stand Your Ground laws. We must end it."

Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders have said they will not call a special session because they support Florida's Stand Your Ground law.

SEE ALSO: GOP Florida lawmakers push back on call for special legislative session

So the Dream Defenders called their own, mock special session on Tuesday.

They met in the Senate chambers of the Old Capitol and passed several resolutions, including one to repeal Florida's Stand Your Ground law. The law allows anyone to use deadly force in public if they feel a serious threat to their safety.

They called it the "People's Session" and hoped it would get the governor's attention.

"He's had a chance to step up and he's yet to do so yet. So we thought we'd give him an example. We lead by example," said Dream Defender Elijah Armstrong, who's serving as "House speaker" during the mock session.

The protesters have a tough challenge with the governor and legislative leaders steadfastly opposing a special session.

Protesters also face the reality of public sentiment in Florida. Polls show most Floridians support the Stand Your Ground law.

But Rev. Jackson thinks the Dream Defenders hold the moral high ground on the issue, trying to make Florida safer, and he believes that will help change minds.

"We've seen southern governors before had to change their minds because we changed our minds. One day Rosa Parks changed her mind. The bus company didn't change their mind, but they eventually did. [Gov. George] Wallace said we couldn't go to the University of Alabama. He had to change his mind."

Jackson vowed his Rainbow PUSH Coalition would support the Dream Defenders, saying it's time to engage in a massive nonviolent resistance.

He predicted students from around the country will rotate through the Florida Capitol in the coming weeks and months to keep the effort alive.

"This is a bigger movement. Florida is the headquarters of a bigger movement and the whole world is watching."

Dave Heller

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