The aftermath of the trial’s verdict has left many with a lack of faith in Florida’s justice system and hundreds of youth members in the state are making big efforts to speak out.
Hundreds of teenagers and young adults, led by the Dream Defenders — an organization that confronts issues of inequality among minorities – gathered at the Florida State Capitol on Tuesday and have vowed not to leave until they receive a response from the state’s governor, Rick Scott.
“The verdict really showed for us, after a year organizing around the state, that Florida had no value for a young person of color so we’re at the state house until [the governor] hears our demands,” Phillip Agnew, the executive director of Dream Defenders, told theGrio in a national media call. “We’ve started a petition calling for a [civil rights] act.”
Over 100 youth leaders and students, both in high school and college, traveled from across the state to gather on the first day of protests on Tuesday while 24 students decided to camp out and spent the night at the building.
That number doubled on Wednesday, as more than 50 students stayed overnight at the capitol. They hope that the governor will respond and address the issues that concern them, which they say include stand your ground vigilantism, racial profiling and a war on youth that paints young people of color as criminals.
“Our classmates, our friends are being targeted,” said Annie Thomas, a Power U youth leader. “We are living in a state of fear and being punished because of the color of our skin.”
The Florida NAACP chapter has acknowledged the effort of the protesters and has actively participated in attempting to draw a response from the governor.
“I delivered a letter to the governor’s office calling on him to come back to capitol and address the issue,” said Dale Landry, the President of Tallahassee’s branch of the NAACP. “The governor has the power to calm the fears of the state and he has not done his job.”
The protesters have received support from local businesses and passersby who have given donations such as yoga mats for sleeping. However, protesters say supplies are still needed and are greatly appreciated. Items like paper utensils, cutlery, blankets, pillows and monetary donations are more than welcomed.
They also urge people to call Florida’s legislators and flood the governor’s office with phone calls and messages, urging him to respond.
“The outcome of the Zimmerman trial shows the precariousness of the lives of young black men, and too often they are being gunned down at the hands of those who racially profiled them,” said Judith Brown Dianis, the co-director of advancement project. “We’re calling on Governor Scott to stop Florida from being the poster child for everything that is wrong in our country.”
The protesters say expect to continue their stay for the next several days.
Dianis added: “This moment is not just a moment, it’s a movement.”
Follow Lilly Workneh on Twitter @Lilly_Works