Dream Defenders Stand Their Ground At United Nations

By on September 25th, 2013

The Dream Defenders are taking their message to the floor of the United Nations.

The group, which is against Florida’s “stand your ground” law and formed in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, submitted an eight-page shadow report Friday to the U.N. Human Rights Committee answering questions the committee raised as to whether stand your ground violates the United States’ civil rights obligations.

The group has gained momentum since the July acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case. They initiated a 31-day occupation of the Capitol building in Tallahassee to pressure members of the Florida House of Representatives to hold a legislative hearing on “stand your ground.”

Composed mainly of college students from across the state, the group drafted its own bill called Trayvon’s Law, which repeals “stand your ground.”

The shadow report is only the latest in the Dream Defenders’ ongoing desire to become a persistent force against civil rights violations.

In a partnership with Florida Legal Services, Inc. and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the report hopes to make known perceived misuses of stand your ground to the international community.

Dream Defenders from around the state of Florida gathered Sept. 23 for lobbying training sessions at the Tallahassee Capitol building in their continued fight against the “stand your ground” law. The group was formed in 2012 after the death of Trayvon Martin and has since gained international attention.

Chabeli Herrera / WUFT News

Dream Defenders from around the state of Florida gathered Sept. 23 for lobbying training sessions at the Tallahassee capitol building in their continued fight against the “stand your ground” law. The group was formed in 2012 after the death of Trayvon Martin and has since gained international attention.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee’s placed “stand your ground” on the list of issues it wishes the United States to respond to.

The U.S. will be under review on Oct. 18. as one of the signatories of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights treaty. The U.S. signed the treaty in 1976 along with 73 other countries to ensure individual freedoms and citizen equality. The countries are subjected to periodic review by the U.N. Human Rights Committee to assure compliance with the treaty.

“The action at the Capitol, the fact that the review is happening in October, the fact that stand your ground was part of the list of issues, all the factors converged to make this an opportune time to write this report,” said Meena Jagannath, staff attorney at the Community Justice Project at Florida Legal Services and one of the report’s authors.

The report highlights certain “stand your ground” cases across Florida. Among them is the case of Jack “Sandy” Newstedt of Sebastian, a 21-year-old black man who wandered into the wrong house early one morning and was shot by the homeowner.

Newstedt’s case was brought to the attention of the Dream Defenders by his sister, who testified at one of the Dream Defenders’ people sessions where community members were asked to share stories on how “stand your ground” issues had impacted their lives.

“We wanted to raise up the voices that wouldn’t ever really reach that level because it wasn’t really reported on in the media,” Jagannath said.

The report argues there is a racial disparity in the application of the law. It cites a Tampa Bay Times database of “stand your ground” cases since it was passed. According to the database, a defendant who killed a white person was two times more likely to be convicted of the crime than a defendant who killed a black person.

“People may have the image of the United States of being completely just and equal,” said Ahmad Abuznaid, Legal Policy Director for the Dream Defenders who participated in writing the report. “We are telling a different story. We are telling the story of the work that still needs to be done in the United States of America, the story of the disproportionate effects on minority communities and ‘stand your ground’ is one of those issues.”

Abuznaid said he hopes the statistics in the report will bring attention to the situation of discrimination in America.

“We’d like to see the international community, the United Nations, recognize this and do some outreach to our government and let them know that the world is watching and everything isn’t peachy and fuzzy in the U.S.,” he said.

“Stand your ground” supporters think the move will not be a threat to the law.

“Florida Carry takes the position that no non-U.S. organization has any right to tell us what our rights are under our constitution,” said Eric Friday, lead counsel at Florida Carry, an organization dedicated to advancing the rights of Floridians to bear arms.

“They are taking the cause internationally because they have completely failed in their attempts with Florida legislature to change Florida law,” Friday said, “so now they are trying to run to outside organizations that they think can do something but can really do nothing.”

Shamile Louis, an executive board member of the University of Florida Dream Defenders, said at the local level, the report demonstrates the work being done by motivated young adults is meaningful work, bringing attention to their cause in Gainesville and across the state.

“By taking this to a higher level and not just keeping it consolidated to Florida and to the U.S. (and) by having this on a worldwide platform, it puts even more pressures on our legislators and our government to do right by its own people,” she said.

“I hope it energizes the youth across the U.S. and across the world to organize, to motivate and to move and hopefully we can make this world the beloved community that we hope it is,” Abuznaid said.

This entry was posted in Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Fred

    This is crazy

  • Fred

    I think these organizations are to the point where they would like to completely disarm the us citizens and violate the 2 nd amendment. Their is nothing wrong with the stand your ground law if a person knowingly enters a home or a dwelling without consent deserves what ever they get because they are breaking the law and putting their self in danger. I know I will defend my property and my family at all cost

  • Sea Span

    @Fred, did you read this? aside from being cold, heartless, and cruel, your comment does not fit this article.

  • Nikki

    It’s not about disarming anybody or the second amendment. It’s about how SYG is disproportionately applied to blacks and whites (ex Zimmerman and Dunn vs. Marissa Alexander and Michael Giles). I am so glad we are finally taking issues that affect our community internationally, but other issues such as police brutality, racial profiling, the prison industrial complex, the closing of schools and building of prisons, Stop & Frisk, etc. all need to be addressed at the UN as well.


More Stories in Politics


Rep. Perry Confirms GRU Governance Bill Is Dead

Rep. Keith Perry confirmed that a bill which would have allowed voters to establish a HB-1325 has died in the Florida House of Representatives. The hearing of HB 1325, was postponed during the last meeting of the Regulatory Affairs Committee.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio

Rubio Announces Presidential Bid In Miami To Mixed Local Response

On Monday, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio announced his bid for presidency in 2016. The event at Freedom Tower in Miami was attended by eager supporters as well as peaceful protestors.

Hemp has a wide variety of commercial uses, including food, cosmetics, paper and bio-fuel. It can be grown organically year-round, and has few weed or insect enemies. Garrett Mastronardi / WUFT News

Florida Lawmakers Set Sights On Industrial Hemp Production

The bill would allow farmers to use a strain of cannabis as a cash crop that would be used to produce industrial items, like textiles. The strains would have much lower levels of THC than those used for medical or recreational purposes. If passed, the law would take effect on July 1.

Run-Off Elections

Gainesville City Commission Run-Offs End In Goston, Budd Victories

Charles Goston and Harvey Budd won their Gainesville City Commission seats after Tuesday’s run-off elections. Goston took the District 1 seat, and Budd won the at-large seat.

Putnam County has more dirt road miles than any other county in the state of Florida, according to Chris Evers, the past president of the American Public Works Association. Photo by WUFT.

Controversy Surrounds Better Place Plan Renewal in Putnam County

Putnam County residents will be able to vote on the renewal of the Better Place Plan on April 7. However, the wording of the renewal plan has some residents questioning the transparency of the commission and how the changes will affect the county.

Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments