All In   |  July 22, 2013

Nationwide response continues one week after Zimmerman verdict

The nationwide response has moved beyond the verdict to a real moment of national conversation. Chris Hayes brings in the Executive Director of Dream Defenders, Phillip Agnew, and  Civil Rights Attorney Michelle Alexander to talk about what is next in the call for change.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening, from new york . i'm chris hayes . tonight on "all in," there are a few places in this world where when a baby is born that child's life path is all but predetermined. one of those places was behind this door in london and another is if in any of the dark areas of this map. we're going to talk about both of those places tonight.

>>> also coming up, if i gave you 435 guesses i wonder if you could make the congress person being called the most effectivive representative. that representative will be my guest tonight.

>>> plus breaking news about the 2011 national league most valuable player who has been suspended tonight without pay for the rest of the year. but most surprising is what he had to say about the suspension. all that is ahead.

>>> we begin tonight with what is now a full-fledged nationwide social cultural and political response to the injustice of trayvon martin's killing. in just one week's time, what was at first the reactions of a few individuals to a verdict has become a genuine moment. one channeled by the president on friday, one that holds out the possibility of real change . this weekend ushered in 100 rallies across the country including new york , chicago, miami and memphis. organized by the national action network , pushing for a federal civil rights investigation against george zimmerman who was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the killing of trayvon martin. but the thrust of these rallies was hardly limited to one goal, as described by the peaceful protesters including trayvon martin's parents.

>> we love our children in america , and we're not going to just stand by and say nothing when one of our children are being gunned down.

>> when i look back, i'm going to remember the tragic death of a young african- american teen and i'm going to remember that i did something to try to help. you know, i was a part of a protest to try to, you know, find justice.

>> to find a way to live together and not think everyone is a suspect, and we have to find solutions to this.

>> this verdict makes it very clear and gives a green light to anyone that wants to shoot and kill a youth of color, and you can get off and walk and two on and live your life and it's okay.

>> one of our biggest missions to make sure that we advocate against senseless violence.

>> i want your voices to be heard, but we have to make sure that we do it in a peaceful manner. i want to lead by example.

>> the national action network 's president, my colleague, the reverend al sharpton , got some support of the new york rally from beyonce and jay z. there was president obama who placed himself squarely on the record with extended remarks but we might as a nation choose to respond as well as the context of what it is like to be a black man in america .

>> and that all contributes, i thinks to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.

>> those riveting, complex, extended surprise remarks succeeded in elevating the unfolding conversation on social media and this network about profile and race and criminal justice into the national discussion. a national discussion now squarely focused on those rarely discussed and now hotly debated themes.

>> he was pushed to that podium. a week of protest outside the white house , pressure building on him inside the white house .

>> the reality is that he walked to the podium. he wasn't pushed to the podium. he walked to the podium.

>> we, we need to have a discussion on race but we also need to have a discussion on how we're treating poor and minority people in this country.

>> as the president described whether as being followed around in a store or clutching bags in an elevator, those are experiences that my son, our sons have had and it gave them that voice and i thought it was really important for the president to validate and articulate that.

>> in a far more intimate setting, no less important, there is this. the dream defenders. we've been covering them ever since day started occupying the offices of florida 's governor rick scott seven days ago vowing to remain there until the governor calls a special session to reexamine florida 's stand your ground law. it was just last week the group's executive director phillip agnew who will join us in a moment was on this show telling us his group's sit-in had secured a meeting with the governor. that meeting was open, polite and offered the dream defenders a chance to speak directly to the governor but didn't move the governor to change his position.

>> we plan on staying until you do call that special session . i feel like it's coming in a few minutes. and we'll continue to petition you, right, and i know you love people. we plan on bringing people.

>> i'm not going to call a special session . i don't believe right now that stand your ground should be changed, but i tell you right now, i appreciate you and i look forward to seeing you again.

>> joining me now from the capitol in tallahassee, florida , phillip agnew , executive director of dream defenders. last time we spoke, it was before that interview before you went into the meeting. did you come away with a sense that was anything more than symbolic? is there a path forward to some of your demands here?

>> thank you for having me again, and i think it was symbolic. i think it was an opportunity, of course, to open up a dialogue, but the governor the benefit of monday or tuesday and wednesday of last week to hear on a number of outlets what our demands were, and so a meeting to further discuss our demands and then to tell us, no, must be symbolic and indicative of what he has determined to be his plan of action moving forward. so, yeah, i do, i think it's a way forward , a beginning of a way forward , but as i said last week, our people and people from around the country have encouraged us to stay. we're determined to stay because we believe that we have a plan to win.

>> you have met with one of -- the head of juvenile justice in state of florida . florida has a terrible record in terms of moving kids from school to prison in the so-called school-to-prison pipeline. we've covered one of those stories on this show. a 16-year-old was arrested, charged with a felony for a small science experiment with a water bottle . what came out of that meeting? what's your proactive agenda to address that crisis in the state of florida ?

>> you know, i think the governor this morning thought that it would be important to dispatch his secretary and i think she came into the room seeking to listen, as she said a number of times, and we had a number of things to say, and it was also important that we gave her an opportunity to speak on the record because the dream defenders and a number of other groups, part of a coalition or juvenile justice where they're on day one of legislative session . we didn't just sprout up out of anywhere. and she didn't support any of the bills that we were proposing to proactively attack the school-to-prison pipeline, to eliminate arrests for misdemeanors, to eliminate the zero tolerance policies in our schools that allow for just minor offenses like the one you referenced with keara, kids taken out of schools and put in prisons. the opportunity was there months ago for her to act on these things. i think today, once again, dialogue happened. it's the time for action. when there's a hurricane in florida , there's not a dialogue or a task force that's formed. there's action. and so we feel like we're in a state of crisis and it's time for some action.

>> you have been occupying, you and the dream defenders have been occupying the capitol. people watching this thinking, wells you've gotten a meet with the governor, you've gotten a meeting with the head of juvenile justice and the governor told you he's not going to call a special session , so maybe it's time for you to pack up and go home because you've made your position clear. you've gotten some national television exposure. you've brought some much-needed attention to these issues. call it a day , mission accomplished and go home. what do you say to that?

>> i think that's the shortsided view. we didn't do this with the intention of being here, though i'm honored every time i have the opportunity to talk to you or anybody else about what we're doing, but we came there to win, so even after folks have forgotten, as many people do, we'll be there with the objective of winning. our demand has always been for that special session . so he can send another secretary tomorrow, he can send his chief of staff later on this week. he can dispatch any of a number of people that he thinks will listen to us, but right now, we're calling on action, and really, quite frankly, we think it's important for young people around the country, and in our state who have been acting and who have been moving to know that there is somebody who won't give up. and we have a plan to win. it's not just about the occupation. we have some local mobilization. we plan on petitioning local lawmakers to send their support up to tallahassee. you saw with the president, he showed leadership. we're expecting governor rick scott to do the same.

>> phillip agnew who will be leaving me now to go back to sleep on the floor of the capitol tonight in the state of florida , from the dream defenders. thank you so much. appreciate it.

>> thank you for having me.

>>> joining me now, civil rights attorney michelle alexander , school of law at ohio state university . author of the book "the new jim crow ." michelle, you and i have spoken before and your book transformed the way i think about race and criminal justice . do you see an opening right now in the very rare public conversation we're having about race and criminal justice to really get at the root of the problem here?

>> well, i'm hopeful in part because of groups like the dream defenders, which have so inspired me in the past week. you know, i think, you know, immediately following the verdict, there was great reason to be discouraged. there seemed to be a media circus and a lot of punditry.

>> i hate that.

>> but it wasn't clear a meaningful movement might emerge. what we see with the dream defenders is young people standing up, standing there ground courageously and nonviolently, taking matters in their own hand, not trusting that politicians who have done so little in the past decades to stand up for the rights of black and brown men, in particular, and poor people of all colors, not trusting them to somehow solve this problem but taking matters in their own hand and saying we're going to take over the state capitol until a special session is held. it's that sense of urgency and that level of commitment that is required if we are going to ever move beyond these kind of episodic explosions of fury and emotion when incidents like the trayvon martin killing happen, or gina 6 or the execution of troy davis . we're going to move beyond these episodic explosions of anger and then back to business as usual .

>> and business as usual --

>> and actually build a movement. it will require this kind of courage.

>> business as usual has, as you document in your book, and as many who are working in the movement to reform our criminal justice system , i mean, what we've gotten a little bit what i think is interesting in wake of the verdict is just peeling back curtain on what business as usual in the american criminal justice system looks like. for people that are just tuning into that, what would you tell them the summary version of that? what is the problem that needs changing aside from the fact that trayvon martin won't live to see his 18th birthday?

>> the problem that needs to be changed is that some people define largely by race and class are viewed as a problem. a problem to be managed, dealt with harshly, controlled. you know, back in 1903 , debois wrote that the defining experience of being black in america is constantly being viewed as a problem. a problem to be managed, dealt with, but never solved. and today more than 100 years later, black and brown men are viewed as a problem to be dealt with harshly. they're viewed that way in our schools. they're viewed that way on the street. they are treated like a problem rather than a group that may have some problems like all people of all colors have problems. it's part of the human condition . but they're viewed as the embodyembod embodyle of a problem. in fact, i think one of the reasons why trayvon martin's death resonated so profoundly is because it's a rare experience in the so-called era of colorblindness, when suddenly the curtain was pulled back and all of the usual justifications and rationalizations for treating black and brown boys and men as a problem and up to no good were revealed to not hold water. all you had was this, you know, young boy , a teenager walking down the street, talking to a girl on the phone, carrying skittles and iced tea and he is viewed as a threat, as a problem, someone to be dealt with, confronted, managed, controlled. and the fact that his killer has been allowed to walk scot-free i think has enraged so many was it suggests that this problem will never be solved.

>> that's right.

>> that black and brown men will always be treated this way and viewed this way with impunity.

>> unless something changes and unless people like the dream defenders and others get to shaking up a political system that has grown way too complacent and comfortable with the levels of incarceration, targeting and profiling. civil rights attorney, mrs. alexander, whose new book "the new jim crow " everyone should read.

>>> there's one member of congress, by one objective, and pure call metric, the most effective member of the house of representatives . you'll be shocked to find out who he is. he joins me, next.