Local groups rally in Tallahassee

Groups meet for 'Moral Monday' at state Capitol

By Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter, Mike Vasilinda

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - More than 150 people from Jacksonville participated in a peaceful protest outside the state Capitol Monday on the eve of Florida's legislative session.

The NAACP Florida State Conference, in partnership with a diverse coalition, launched the Florida "Moral Monday" social justice campaign, in which an estimated 500 people from around the state came to seek restoration of voters rights and a repeal of the "stand your ground" law.

"How can you shoot and kill an African-American youth and walk and do a warning shot and get 60 years?" said U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, referring to recent controversial cases involving George Zimmerman and Marissa Alexander.

The campaign demands change and calls on Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the state Legislature to protect the rights of all Floridians by expanding Medicaid, protecting voting rights, addressing economic inequality and repealing "stand your ground" practices.

"Our state should no longer abide by the atrocities wreaked on the poor, the young, the working class, people of color and countless other constituencies," Adora Obi Nweze, president of the NAACP Florida State Conference, said in a statement.

State legislators and congressional leaders also took part in the first demonstration, a three-hour rally.

"We, you and I have learned through experience that what is legal is not always the equivalent of what is moral," said Bishop A.J. Richardson, of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Several groups from Jacksonville, including the Progressive Movement, Free Marissa, NAACP and the United Front of Jacksonville, packed a bus and headed to Tallahassee Monday morning.

"This will be an organized rally, a peaceful protest to let the system know that there's an unjust structure at hand," said Carnell Oliver, who's representing United Front in Jacksonville. "It's an experience I recommend for just about anybody. If you feel like something is unjust and you want to make a statement, make that statement because in America you have that right to do it." 

"We're going to show support for Medicaid, education, economic sustainability, voter purging," said George Young, of NAACP Florida Conference. "We want our voters' rights because if we lose our voters' rights, the 1 percent already in control will be in more control. We're trying to let the governor and Legislature know we're concerned about the things they're doing in Tallahassee."

"I'm personally going up to represent Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin to let everybody know that the justice system that we live in is unacceptable. Where young black men, just because he's playing his music up loud gets shot several times and we have a hard time getting a man convicted."

One speaker pointed out this year's election would have been the first in which Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis could have voted.

"We can help Trayvon Martin get home. We can help Jordan Davis get home. The only way we can do that, is by voting," said Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee.

Others were supporting Marissa Alexander.

"I feel what has happened to her recently, (State Attorney) Angela Corey just came out recently with a triple possible sentence for 60 years," said Norah Pursell, of Free Marissa Alexander. "I feel for women in domestic violence situations. Their options are far and few in between, and what happens is the victims are being penalized instead of understanding the root causes, and I think it's a horrible system."

"I'm going to support and let legislators know that we do not support what is going on, to raise awareness for Marissa. Through talking to other people I found out that it was beneficial to have as many people out there in Tallahassee as possible, so I woke up early, because if just being another person there can help, I want to be that next person."

Moral Monday Florida is the latest campaign in a social justice movement that began in North Carolina and has expanded to Georgia and South Carolina.

"We're going to try to do it here more than just once [a year], but this is the beginning of it. It's just to let the governor and Legislature know people are fed up with the way they're doing things," said George Young, of NAACP Florida Conference.

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