Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday told a group of protesters that he will not call for changes in the state’s self-defense laws following George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.
The Republican governor returned to Tallahassee late Thursday and for nearly an hour met with seven members of the protest group that has been camped in part of his office for three days.
"The protesters again asked that I call a special session of the Legislature to repeal Florida's Stand Your Ground law. I told them that I agree with the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, which concurred with the law,” Scott said in a statement following the meeting. “I also reminded them of their right to share their views with their state legislators and let them know their opinions on the law."
On Saturday, a Seminole County jury found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman said he shot the teen in self-defense after Martin attacked him in February 2012.
The verdict prompted demonstrations across the country, with many protesters calling for the repeal of the Stand Your Ground law, which opponents believe too easily allows citizens to shoot before retreating when threatened by what they believe to be deadly force.
The laws were thrust into the national spotlight following Martin’s death, though Zimmerman’s legal team did not specifically rely on the law in his defense during the trial.
"It is a time for leadership. The world is watching, most definitely the nation is watching, and you have an opportunity to stand tall above the rest," one of the protesters told Scott.
Scott commissioned a task force to examine the statute, which ultimately recommended the law stay in place as it is currently written.
Florida was the first state to pass such a law, in 2005; other states have passed similar laws since.
In his statement Thursday, Scott also said he spoke to Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, earlier in the evening and again expressed his condolences for her family's loss.
He called for a statewide day of unity on Sunday.
“We have a great state with wonderful, resilient people that rise to meet any challenge. While emotions run high, it is even more important that we join together to strengthen and support one another," Scott said.