The families of Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander joined the Rev. Al Sharpton and several hundred others in a protest outside the state Capitol on Monday. After speaking on the steps outside, family members were set to testify before a Senate criminal justice committee WJXT reports.
"To have laws that tell people that they can shoot first and then ask questions later is a violation of our civil rights. I believe that law is inherently wrong," Sharpton told the crowd of more than 1,000 just before the march began. "The law in effect says based on your imagination -- if you imagine I'm a threat -- you have the right to kill me."
While neither the killer of Jordan Davis or Trayvon Martin specifically claimed the stand your ground statute in their self-defense arguments, the statute was included sentencing instructions to both juries. The jury hearing the first-degree murder charge against Michael Dunn deadlocked, although he was convicted of other charges for firing into the SUV with Davis and three friends. George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder in the death of Martin.
"Right is right and wrong is wrong," said Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother. "Stand your ground is absolutely, positively wrong, and it has to be changed."
"It was a shady law known as stand your ground that robbed his father and I of any hope for justice," added Lucia McBath, Davis' mother.
A task force appointed after Zimmerman's trial to review the law said it should not be overturned and left intact. Last year, bills to repeal or modify Florida's stand your ground law were defeated in the Legislature.
Republican Sen. David Simmons, of Altamonte Springs, is still backing the law but is sponsoring a bill this session that would modify the law that would prevent the use of a stand-your-ground defense by someone who provided a confrontation that led to a shooting.
"It emphasizes that if you are the person that provoked the force, you are not entitled to stand your ground," said Simmons.
Monday's march began at 9:30 a.m. at the Leon County Civic Center and ended about an hour later at the Capitol building. The Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and others were addressing the crowd before the families of the victims and other marchers were to go inside and attend afternoon hearings of House and Senate criminal justice committees.
"Stuck on stupid," Brown said of the law.
Protesters waved signs saying "STANDING OUR GROUND" and wore T-shirts that said "We are not a threat."
"I just decided I could no longer sit back, as an African-American male," said Michael Taylor, who came down from Morehouse College in Atlanta to attend the rally. "That could have been me walking to the store; that could have been me playing my stereo loud. So I'm just here to stand my ground and do the right thing for the people who follow me."
Last summer, members of the group Dream Defenders held a month-long sit-in at the Capitol to try to get lawmakers to call a special session to address the law, but Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders refused to do so.
"Everybody has the right to own a gun, but you have to understand that you're responsible for other people's lives, and if you take somebody else's life, you can't bring it back," political activist Bruce McGee said.
Jordan Davis' father, Ron Davis, couldn't make it to the march in Tallahassee but said he wanted to make sure everyone knew how much he appreciates the support. He said if you'd like to donate to continue his son's legacy, you can go to WalkWithJordan.org.
The biggest surprise of the march Monday came at the end: A call for boycotting two of Florida's largest companies, Disney and Tropicana. That's because the two support the group that pushed stand your ground.
"And the small world is going to start crumblin' down. And Tropicana, you going to feel the squeeze," the Rev. Jamal Bryant said.
Organizers said they've given the companies until the first week of April to help support the repeal or face the consequence.