My AJE Oped: The 'Dream Defenders' Would Defend Us All

Spawned in Florida, 'stand your ground' laws affect everyone. By calling for the laws' repeal, the Dream Defenders are defending us all.

The Dream Defenders have just ended a 31-day sit-in at Florida's capitol, but say they'll be back when the legislature returns. Their efforts to get the law repealed have so far been rebuked based on Governor Scott's claim that the law has already been reviewed, and found to be flawless. My new op-ed for Al Jazeera English, The 'Dream Defenders' would defend us all reveals this rationale for the flimsy house of cards it is, including the put-up job of the politically stacked panel, and the major reforms that were actually proposed by the only prosecutor on the panel--and endorsed by the panel co-chair. But it also cites some of the overwhelming evidence that the panel chose to ignore, showing how the law is protecting career criminals, not law-abiding citizens, and it goes back to the number one anecdote used to push the law through in the first place--and finds that, lo and behold, what actually happened was nothing outrageous at all. Here's how the piece begins:

The 'Dream Defenders' would defend us all
The 'stand your ground' law affects more than African Americans - it affects everyone.

Weeks have passed since George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin in mid-July, but a group of young activists known as the Dream Defenders only recently ended their occupation of the state capitol building in Tallahassee, where they called for a special session of the legislature to repeal Florida's so-called "stand your ground" (SYG) law, confront racial profiling, and end the school-to-prison pipeline.

They were right to do so for four main reasons:

  • the "stand your ground" law is badly flawed, and the evidence is overwhelming;
  • it was directly implicated in Zimmerman's acquittal, even though Zimmerman's lawyers did not explicitly invoke a "stand your ground" defence;
  • the law highlights and intensifies the broader problems of racial profiling, and the criminalisation of minority youth;
  • America badly needs a reborn civil rights movement, and the Dream Defenders are the perfect catalyst, like the Freedom Riders and the lunch counter sit-in protesters who played key roles at times when the Civil Rights Movement needed rejuvenation, and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, which played a key role organising young activists and putting them on the front lines of struggle.

Read the whole op-ed here.

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