In 2012, after the killing of the teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, a group of Black and Latinx people marched from Daytona Beach to where Martin was killed. That march sparked a movement.
Known as the Dream Defenders, they identify as abolitionists, feminists, socialists and internationalists who work to serve people of color from disenfranchised communities. A year after George Zimmerman was acquitted, the Dream Defenders occupied the Florida State Capitol for a month, demanding a repeal of the Stand Your Ground law.
More recently, the Dream Defenders have participated in protests regarding the killing of George Floyd, and last year’s so-called “anti-riot” bill (HB1) that was proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature. They have also organized sessions that advocate for abortion rights and fought against deportation of Haitians.
Tallahassee resident Marietta Roberts shed a positive light on the organization.
“I have never seen a group of young people so driven and determined to make the world a better place for all people. I remember their efforts at the Capitol a few years ago and their fight was the one thing that gave me hope during such turbulent times,” she said.
In Tallahassee, there is a local chapter referred to as the Tallahassee Dream Defenders led by squad leader Malik Gary, a political science major at Tallahassee Community College, Gary has been the squad leader of the Tallahassee Dream Defenders since July.
“I want to be like Rep. John Lewis and Dr. King,” Gary said. “I have been blessed to have worked on the Joe Biden campaign, with Poor People of Florida and I will soon be a fellow of NLC. I have been tear-gassed while protesting for Mike Brown and I was one of the people that were run over by a truck in a peaceful protest during the summer of 2020. So, I know at a young age that this is what I need to do for my community,” he said.
Other chapters in Florida, referred to as “SquaDDs” by the Dream Defenders, are located in Gainesville, Broward, Pensacola and Daytona Beach.
Current member and Broward SquaDD lead organizer CJ Staples is proud of his role with the Dream Defenders.
“Being a Dream Defender means that I am part of an organization that truly cares about reimagining public safety and Black liberation, and we are actively mobilizing to make those dreams a reality.”
Current events being held by the Tallahassee Dream Defenders include an interest meeting on Nov. 10, a protest of Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell on Nov. 13, and a rally for the people event on Nov. 17.
Those who are interested in joining the Tallahassee Dream Defenders or attending these events can follow them on Instagram @DreamDefenderstlh for more information.