On Monday, Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Secretary met with demonstrators, who are camping outside the office of Gov. Rick Scott in protest of the state’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws.
Secretary Wansley Walters held a meeting with representatives of the Dream Defenders, an activist group that has pledged to remain inside the State Capitol until Gov. Scott holds a special legislative meeting addressing a litany of issues. The crux of their demands is the implementation of a “Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act,” which would not only eliminate the state’s “Stand Your Ground” legislation, but also forbid racial profiling practices and dissolve “zero tolerance” policies in Florida schools.
The organization, composed of college students and other young people from Florida, have staged the sit-in for approximately a week. Despite the demonstration, Scott had stated that he will not hold a special session to address their concerns.
According to the Miami Herald, Walters – who was appointed by Scott to speak to the protestors – discussed several topics with the activists, including the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline.”
“I think when you work with kids, things should be handled on a case-by-case basis,” Walters reportedly told the demonstrators. “I am not a supporter of zero tolerance.”
Walters and the protestors also discussed the practice of housing adults and juvenile offenders in the same facilities, as well as the increased use of “civil citations” as alternatives to juvenile arrests. Walters reportedly told representatives of the Dream Defenders that the DJJ was working on developing new policies and procedures regarding the issues they were most concerned about, adding that she believed that Florida has made more progress in resolving those issues “than any other state in the union.”
After the meeting, however, demonstrators remained inside the Tallahassee Capitol Building.
“We were looking for a repeal of zero-tolerance policy, we were looking for a way to get our children out of adult prisons, we were looking for a way to protect them in detention facilities,” Dream Defender Ciara Taylor allegedly told Walters, according to WTSP.com.
“And you were silent the entire legislative session on those bills.”