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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Harry Belafonte takes part in Tallahassee protest

26

July

Belafonte

The young activists protesting outside Gov. Rick Scott's office got an unexpected boost of star power Friday when entertainer Harry Belafonte joined their ranks.

The students, who call themselves the Dream Defenders, have spent the past 11 days camped in the Florida Capitol. They have pledged not to leave until Scott calls a special session addressing the Stand Your Ground law, the number of young adults in prisons and racial profiling.

Scott has said he won't call the legislature to Tallahassee.

But Belafonte, himself a civil rights activist, urged the Dream Defenders to stay strong.

"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."

Travis Roberts, a 26-year-old protester, said Belafonte's presence "meant the world."

"He's my Martin Luther King, Jr., my Muhammad Ali, my Sojourner Truth," Roberts said.

More than 250 people took part in the rally outside Scott's office on Friday afternoon -- the largest number yet. The group included members of the Dream Defenders from across Florida, as well as students and young professionals from Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

About 100 of the participants were expected to spend the weekend in the Capitol.

The Dream Defenders launched the protest after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

[Last modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 8:54pm]

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