Singer, actor and social activist Harry Belafonte joined 200 “Stand Your Ground” protesters at the the Florida Capitol Friday, saying the protests could launch a nonviolent state shutdown if Gov. Rick Scott ignores demands for a special session to repeal the law, reports Jacksonville’s 12 WTLV.
“We know how to stop the machine and I think the last thing that the governor and this Legislature would want to see is that the state of Florida comes to a grinding halt. That’s in the offering,” Belafonte said.
Protesters ecstatically greeted Belafonte when the 86-year-old appeared at Friday’s rally to offer support, the Miami Herald reported.
“If they reject you, then the world will pay attention to what’s happening to you, and it is possible that Florida could become ungovernable,” he said. “By ungovernable, I don’t mean violent. But it could mean tens of thousand of people will join you. That’s not good for tourism.”
The group of protesters, calling themselves the Dream Defenders, have rallied at the Capitol in Tallahassee since July 16, joined by protesters from Baltimore, Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia, according to the Herald report.
The Dream Defenders have sworn not to leave the capitol until Scott calls a special legislative session to repeal “Stand Your Ground,” along with addressing changes to the state’s juvenile justice system and racial profiling rules.
Gov. Scott is a firm supporter of “Stand Your Ground,” and doesn’t see the need for a special session to examine it.
To counteract, the Dream Defenders are utilizing an unusual procedure, reports 12 WTLV.
Typically, special sessions are only called by the governor or by both the president of the Senate and the House’s speaker. A third option allows 20 percent of Florida’s Legislature, or 32 members, to sign a petition to poll all the state’s legislators. If successful, 60 percent of the legislators would then need to agree to hold a special session for it to be scheduled.
Of the 32 signatures needed, 28 have agreed to sign, said Dream Defender member Ciara Taylor.
At the rally, Belafonte said he got involved because he’s bothered by the perception that America is reversing itself on civil rights, citing the recent George Zimmerman trial as evidence of that slide.
“I think there’s a cultural conspiracy on race. I really do. The very fact that the court at the hearing for Mr. Zimmerman refused to let race be part of the plea, part of the discourse, says an awful lot to the rest of us that America is shutting its door on the bigger truth.”