All In   |  November 07, 2013

‘Stand Your Ground’ lives on in Florida

After another death last Saturday in Detroit, Phillip Agnew discusses why the controversial “stand your ground” laws need to be repealed nationwide.

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

>>> breeding heart criminal coddlers want you to give a criminal an even break, so when you're attacked, you're supposed to turn around and run, rather than standing your ground and protecting yourself and your family and your property.

>> a subcommittee of the florida house of representatives voted on a proposed bill to repeal that state's controversial stand your ground law. the law allows for the use of deadly force if a person believes it will prevent death or create bodily harm to himself or herself. it's been on florida 's books since 2005 , but exploded on to national attention after the shooting death of an unarmed 17-year-old trayvon martin. the subsequent acquittal of the man who shot him. and though stand your ground was not ultimately explicitly invoked in george zimmerman's defense in that case, many activists believe these laws create an environment where such shootings are more common. and they begin to organize. a group of student organizers known as the dream defenders occupied the florida statehouse after the zimmerman acquittal, calling for changes in the state's laws, including something called trayvon's bills. a package of bills that aims to change the way people are policed and treated in florida . they pushed and pushed until they finally met with governor rick scott , which ultimately culminated in a debate today over repealing stand your ground . that vote failed 11-2. this all takes on new urgency in the wake of the remeisha mcbride story. she got into a car late saturday night. her cell phone died, so she went to a nearby home and knocked on the door for help. moments later, she was shot in the head.

>> i'm going to read you a sentence from the press release issued to us from the dearborn heights police. and it says, a 19-year-old detroit woman was fatally shot while standing on the front porch of the home.

>> this is what police told the " detroit free press." this man's claiming he believed the girl was breaking into the home. he's also saying the gun discharged accidently. so far, there have been no arrests. and right now, the prosecutor's office won't issue charges without more information from police.

>> could i possibly do that? somebody knocked on my door and i pull my shotgun out and i shoot them while they're leaving off my porch, instead of finding out what was the problem. would i be standing here? no. i'd be in jail without a bond.

>> michigan is one of more than two dozen states with some version of a stand your ground law. joining me now, phillip agnew, executive director of dream defenders. and phillip , first, i've got to get your reaction to the debate that happened in the subcommittee today. that debate over a repeal bill only happened because the activism of you and the dream defenders and folks down there, but it went down to a defeat. how are you feeling right now?

>> it went as expected. so we knew when we got here today, based on the composition of the legislature that we were in for an uphill battle . to be honest, the bill that was presented had a number of deficiencies and that's what we were there today talking about. it's about bad laws, bad lawmakers, and a broken system. and i think you played a clip, any recognize the voice, of miss marian hammer. and she was there as a motley crew of supporters. and it went as suspected. we knew what we were getting into, it was an uphill battle , but we'll keep coming back.

>> marianne harp is one of the gun lobbyists for the nra in the state of florida . how do the defenders o. law talk about the law and the argument for keeping it in the wake of what played out so horribly and now infamously on the night that trayvon martin was shot?

>> you know, they do everything they can to skate around that night and to avoid talking about that night. they talk about the duty to retreat and being in imminent danger and then being force to have the burden of proof put upon the victim. so the scope they're looking at it is very, very narrow. they speak to a very, very few cases. and really, they act like anybody who wants to repeal stand your ground is actually wanting to attack a person's right to defend themselves. and we're not. we're protecting a person's right to defend themselves and if there's an opportunity to retreat, they have a duty to retreat. and we also feel if you're going to invoke a law, there shouldn't be automatic immunity. there should be due process of law . there should be an investigation that's happening. and that's not happening. there's a cancer in florida , and today we voted to let that cancer keep running while.

>> you have been remarkably effective in making those lawmakers listen and pay attention to you. i remember when we first covered you when you started this occupation in the statehouse, it went a number of days and lawmakers didn't want to meet with you and then they finally did, and did they want this issue to go away? you've gotten this debate, you've got the vote. what's next?

>> today was an example of the many reasons why our people need to develop independent political power . what we saw today, we got a ticket to a theater and we knew what was going to happen at the end of the movie, but we had to stay there, because like you said, we were there 31 days and we fought for this hearing. but it really showed us the value of independent political power for people. and we're going to continue to build that. we have a pipeline bill that we're drafting and we're going to enter into legislation and hopefully enact into law during the next session. and in january, when any other laws come forward to amend or repeal or revise the stand your ground law, we'll continue to do that. and we said today, we're going to remember, remember the seventh of november. and next year, this time next year, after we've registered our voters, we're going to be going to the polls with the mandate and continue. and we're in it for the long haul. and we're going to continue to build independent political power , and then when we do, we won't have to come to places just to watch a show. we'll be actively engaged in our redemption.

>> quickly, phillip , what is your reaction to the details coming out of detroit with ra remeisha mcbride's death?

>> it sounds strikingly similar to a number of case. you have jonathan farrow in north carolina who was in an accident, looking for help, and as was shot by police. it sounds strikingly familiar. it's a story i'm sick of hearing. in our communities, we hear it every day. the loss of a life, whether black, brown, or white is a sad day in america and we don't have any laws that should allow for the killer of that person to walk free.

>> phillip agnew from dream defenders, thank you so much.