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Moral Monday Movement Seeks Repeal of Stand Your Ground Law in Georgia
Photographs by Gloria Tatum
(APN) ATLANTA -- Today, February 03, 2014, the Moral Monday Georgia movement once again stood on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol, this time to repeal Georgia's Stand Your Ground (SYG) law.
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law--which is similar to the one in Georgia--made national headlines in 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager, in Florida.
While there are variations by state, Stand Your Ground laws generally work to allow individuals, when they believe they are being threatened with deadly force, to engage in self-defense, even if it appears they have a reasonable opportunity to otherwise retreat without anybody getting harmed.
Now, Jordan Davis, another unarmed Black teenager in Florida, is dead, and the White male who killed him is using SYG as his defense.
His mother, Lucina McBath, planned to attend the Moral Monday SYG rally in Georgia but could not because the murder trial started today in Florida. She, however, did sent a letter to be read at today's SYG rally.
She wrote that her son, Jordan Davis, was born and raised in Atlanta but was gunned down by a man in Jacksonville, Florida.
Laura Bordeaux, Georgia Gun Sense Coalition, read the letter from Lucina McBath to the people gathered at the Capitol.
"The day before Thanksgiving, 2012, Michael Dunn drove his car into a gas station parking lot next to a car that Jordan and three of his friends sat in,” the letter states.
“A verbal altercation ensued between my son and Mr. Dunn over loud music. Moments later, angered and empowered by his gun and the protection of Stand Your Ground laws, Dunn opened fired on the boys… three bullets hit my son causing his death. No guns, alcohol or drugs were found on the boys or in the car. There was nothing that warranted Dunn feeling threatened enough to open fire on a group of innocent teenaged boys," McBath's letter stated.
Mr. Dunn's attorneys plan to use the controversial "Stand Your Ground" law as a defense, as was used in the infamous Zimmerman trial. Dunn claims he thought he saw the barrel of a shotgun in Jordan's car.
"Stand Your Ground was brought to light by the tragic death of Trayvon Martin… We continue to fight for justice for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis .....and for Marissa Alexandra… who was using the Stand Your Ground law as a defense for herself. Marissa is a young black women and mother of three who was the victim of domestic abuse. Just nine days after her baby girl was born… she fired a warning shot into the ceiling after another dispute with her violent partner. Because of this warning shot, to protect her life and the lives of her children, Marissa Alexandra was [sentenced] to twenty years in prison," Monica Simpson, Executive Director of Sister Song, National Reproductive Justice Collective for Women of Color, said.
"The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages. One is that if women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves, the "Stand Your Ground Law" will not apply to them... The second message is that if you are Black, the system will treat you differently", U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown (D-FL) said in a statement which aired on CBS News.
Marissa Alexandra is currently free on bond while awaiting a retrial.
"Over a period of five years, the states that have Stand Your Ground laws have lead to an increase of 600 homicides. Self-defense claims have tripled in Florida. In Stand Your Ground states, White on Black killings are 354 percent more likely to be considered justified than Black on White killings," Becky Rafter, Executive Director of Georgia Women's Action for New Direction, informed the gathering.
"Let’s talk about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Women, people of color, immigrants, queer people, we are all under attack from ALEC. ALEC would not have any success if it were not for the South. Every law they pass, they try it out in the South and they get it passed in the South. Stand Your Ground is ALEC," Rafter said.
"We are here today to say no more lynching condoned by the criminal justice system. No more Stand Your Ground laws that give people permission to gun down based on the basis of hate. We are building a multi-class, multicultural, multiracial movement in this state to shut down government policies such as Stand Your Ground," State Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) told the Moral Monday crowd.
"We stand as the voice of millions of Georgians who know this policy is wrong, who know the fruits of this kind of policy and know the roots of Stand Your Ground policy. It is fundamentally rooted in a racist history and a racist sensibility that devalues people based on their skin color, devalues people based on their income, devalues humanity, and evaluates the power of the gun. We are not going to sit down and be silent in the face of immoral public policy," Orrock said.
"Probably no issue more important than repealing Stand Your Ground. It [SYG] has happened in Georgia, when Corey Ward, an 18 year-old, was shot down seven years ago by a police officer. The worst part of Stand Your Ground law is that a defendant in a Stand Your Ground case can ask the judge for an immunity hearing. This police officer had an immunity hearing before Judge Henry Newkirk. Judge Newkirk said the police officer did not deserve to stand trial, so the charges were thrown out," State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), told the audience.
"It happened in Georgia, when Ronald Westbrook, an Alzheimer's victim, wandered into the backyard of a man that called the police and then took his gun and went into his backyard and blew Westbrook's brains out. He is going to offer a Stand Your Ground defense." Fort said.
"It happened in Georgia when Christopher Johnson, an unarmed African American male, was shot dead by the boyfriend of a woman who Johnson allegedly insulted," Fort said.
"You should be able to defend yourself, but you should not be able to shoot first and ask questions later. That is why I have introduced SB 280 to be heard this Wednesday at 3pm in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB), Room 307," Fort said.
SB 280 would "repeal the statute relating to no duty to retreat prior to the use of force."
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