Wednesday, September 19, 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
Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

This has to be height of bureaucratic pettiness, especially for a city whose track record in promoting quality public art falls somewhere between stick figures and finger puppets.Richard Gonzmart is a community treasure. As the force behind a number ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Romano: Florida’s dangerous prisons costing us more than money

Romano: Florida’s dangerous prisons costing us more than money

Two things you need to know about Florida’s prison budget:1. It was $2.3 billion this year.2. It was still not enough.Kind of staggering when you think of it that way, huh?We keep spending more and more on housing prisoners, and it’s like throwing mo...
Published: 09/18/18
Kavanaugh to testify after denying sexual assault allegations

Kavanaugh to testify after denying sexual assault allegations

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said Monday he was willing to speak to a Senate panel to "refute" an allegation he sexually assaulted a woman while in high school, after his accuser said via her attorney that she was ready to testi...
Published: 09/17/18
California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

Earlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in subu...
Published: 09/16/18
Cuban refugee numbers plummet in Tampa area with cuts at Havana embassy

Cuban refugee numbers plummet in Tampa area with cuts at Havana embassy

It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. embassy in Havana suspended processing requests from people hoping to leave the island nation as refugees. The reason: Staffing was reduced to a skeleton crew in the wake of mysterious health attacks on em...
Published: 09/17/18
Romano: Rick Scott’s do-it-yourself guide to rigging a Supreme Court

Romano: Rick Scott’s do-it-yourself guide to rigging a Supreme Court

His time in Tallahassee is coming to an end. Eight years of triumph or shambles, depending on your point of view. And yet, Rick Scott’s legacy may not be written until his final minute as governor.For several years, Scott has been plotting a judicial...
Published: 09/15/18
Fraying Ties With Trump Put Mattis’ Fate in Doubt

Fraying Ties With Trump Put Mattis’ Fate in Doubt

WASHINGTON D.C.? — Back when their relationship was fresh and new, and President Donald Trump still called his defense secretary "Mad Dog" a nickname Jim Mattis detests ? the wiry retired Marine general often took a dinner break to eat burgers with h...
Published: 09/15/18
Carlton: The mayor, the restaurateur and the giant statue that had to go: A Tampa tale

Carlton: The mayor, the restaurateur and the giant statue that had to go: A Tampa tale

You would have thought the controversy over whether chickens should be left alone to keep boldly roaming the streets of historic Ybor City — and the impressive pro-chicken lobby that showed up to argue on their behalf — would be the quintessential on...
Published: 09/15/18

5 takeaways from Paul Manafort’s plea agreement

Five takeawaysWASHINGTON — Paul Manafort’s agreement to plead guilty and cooperate with the special counsel marks a milestone in the investigation led by Robert Mueller. Here are several key elements:Mueller knows more than we doThe public doesn’t kn...
Published: 09/14/18
Clearwater voter forums will discuss referendum on strong mayor charter change

Clearwater voter forums will discuss referendum on strong mayor charter change

CLEARWATER — Residents can hear varying perspectives on the Nov. 6 referendum on whether to change Clearwater’s form of government into a strong mayor system at two upcoming forums.The Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce will host a forum Monday ...
Published: 09/13/18