Friday, February 23, 2018
Politics

Florida's head of juvenile justice meets with protesters

TALLAHASSEE — The head of Florida's juvenile justice department cleared her calendar Monday to meet with the young activists camped outside Gov. Rick Scott's office.

Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters spent the morning and early afternoon fielding questions from the group — and discussing the steps her agency is taking to prevent young people from entering the criminal justice system.

But the activists, known as the Dream Defenders, held firm on their pledge to stay in the Capitol until Scott convenes a special session of the Florida Legislature. They want lawmakers to create a Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act, which would repeal the controversial "stand your ground" law, end racial profiling and remove zero tolerance policies from schools.

"We're happy to engage in dialogue," Dream Defenders co-founder Gabriel Pendas told Walters. "But we don't need any more talk. We need action."

The Dream Defenders also blasted the governor for not holding a public event Sunday, despite calling for a statewide day of prayer and unity.

"It seems like the day of prayer was just lip service," spokesman Steven Pargett said.

But Melissa Sellers, a spokeswoman for Scott, said the governor spent Sunday morning at Bible Based Church in Tallahassee.

"It was his personal time of worship," she said.

Sellers said Scott had participated in a conference call with 35 faith-based leaders on Friday. He asked each to include a call for peace and unity in their Sunday sermons.

The Dream Defenders, a coalition of college students and young professionals from around the state, have spent the past seven days and six nights outside Scott's office. Their sit-in demonstration is a response to George Zimmerman's recent acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

Scott has made it clear he will not convene a special session.

He directed Walters to speak with the group on Monday.

During an informal meeting outside Scott's office, the student activists told Walters that "zero tolerance" policies in schools were leading to too many suspensions and arrests. Young people, they said, deserve second chances — especially when one mistake might cause them to get tied up in the criminal justice system.

"I am not a supporter of zero tolerance," Walters replied. "I think when you work with kids, things should be handled on a case-by-case basis."

The young activists also spoke out against incarcerating adults and children in the same facility.

"We need to change the culture," Pendas said.

Walters said her department was working on solutions. "Everyday, we are working on the issues you are all talking about," she said. "I'd venture to say we've made more strides than any other state in the union."

But the Dream Defenders wanted concrete action plans. So late Monday, they hunkered down for another night in the Capitol.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected]

Comments

Gulfport candidates draw stark contrasts

GULFPORT ó One candidate is a plain-spoken, straightforward technology consultant who preaches "conservative fiscal responsibility" and votes Republican in national elections.The other is a self-proclaimed "progressive liberal" who practices law, pro...
Published: 02/23/18
William March: Gun issues playing bigger role now in local races

William March: Gun issues playing bigger role now in local races

In the aftermath of the Broward County high school shooting, gun rights issues have jumped to the forefront of local legislative races.Democratic challengers are calling out incumbents in Tampa legislative seats on their past stances on gun control."...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to propose to President Donald Trump that transgender members of the U.S. military be allowed to continue serving despite the presidentís call last summer for a ban on all transgender service, acc...
Published: 02/22/18
Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

After an emotionally draining day that captured national attention ó the massive rally in Tallahassee and a small, tearful gathering of survivors at the White House ó CNNís Wednesday night town hall on the Parkland shooting could have easily been ove...
Published: 02/22/18
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

A St. Louis grand jury has indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on a felony invasion of privacy charge related to the Republicanís affair with a woman in 2015. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced the indictment Thursday. She launched an ...
Published: 02/22/18
Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trumpís club

Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trumpís club

Two weeks after President Donald Trump nominated Florida businessman Leandro Rizzuto Jr. to be ambassador to Barbados, Rizzuto pledged thousands of dollars to fund a gala at Trumpís Mar-a-Lago Club, the galaís organizer said.Rizzuto and his wife, Den...
Published: 02/22/18
Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

New charges were filed Thursday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, ratcheting up the legal pressure on them as they prepare for a trial later this year.A new indictment has long been expected in special cou...
Published: 02/22/18
Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Gun advocates are absolutely right about this:A ban on assault weapons will not end school shootings.How do we know?Because there was a federal ban on assault weapons for 10 years, and mass killings persisted. Thatís because a ban deals only with fut...
Published: 02/22/18
Focused on Cubaís future, Rep. Castor skips meeting with Raul Castro

Focused on Cubaís future, Rep. Castor skips meeting with Raul Castro

TAMPA ó One highlight of a congressional delegationís visit to Cuba this week was an impromptu meeting with President Raul Castro.But not for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.The Tampa Democrat joined five other Democrats on the trip, in part to investigate th...
Published: 02/21/18
Melania Trumpís parents are legal permanent residents, raising questions on Ďchain migrationí

Melania Trumpís parents are legal permanent residents, raising questions on Ďchain migrationí

The parents of first lady Melania Trump have become legal permanent residents of the United States and are close to obtaining their citizenship, according to people familiar with their status, but their attorney declined to say how or when the couple...
Published: 02/21/18