- Faith & Family
State Representative Dwight Bullard and several of his colleagues are demanding answers in the method that was employed to select members for Governor Rick Scott’s Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection. Citing a lack of diversity on the task force and the obvious omission of any Black representation from South Florida, Bullard held a press conference last Thursday in an effort to update the community and to strategize how to persuade Scott to rethink his choices.
Bullard was joined by State Representatives Barbara Watson and Cynthia Stafford. But their disgruntlement may be a moot point as the task force met on Tuesday, May 1st in Tallahassee to deal with “household matters.”
Scott continues to say that he has no “preconceived notions” on what the task force will recommend but he wants it to look at the Florida law that allows citizens to defend themselves with deadly force.
“While it is a good first step launching the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection which is set to examine Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, there are some names boldly missing,” Bullard said. “I express my disappointment that Rep. Watson (D-Miami Gardens) and/or Sen. Oscar Braynon II (D-Miami Gardens) were not assigned to the task force. We know that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has gained national attention due to the outrage over the Trayvon Martin case. Therefore, I believe that the elected officials who represent the district in which Trayvon lived with his mother Sybrina Fulton, should be named to the governor’s task force.”
Bullard has sent a letter to Scott, criticizing him for choosing individuals that “represent a singular viewpoint having all voted and/or co-sponsored the bill that would become the “Stand Your Ground” statute.
Was there really an application process?
Bullard and Watson both expressed interest in being part of the task force. Watson says she even sent formal correspondence to the Governor with her request. But when the task force was chosen, Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll went on record saying that those who made the final cut had submitted applications. Both representatives say they don’t believe Carroll.
“I never received a response from the Governor’s office or from Carroll — it was like a slap in the face, especially when the final selections didn’t have one person from Miami Gardens [the district that Watson and Braynon represent],” Watson said. “It’s despicable and a crime that Scott would completely ignore the citizens of South Florida and also ignores Blacks who could have greatly contributed to the task force. Four-out-of 19 members are Black. That’s not good enough!”
Stafford says the public cannot allow Scott to get away with this.
“Our governor went all the way to Leon County to find a Black that he thought should be on the task force — I guess no one in South Florida had what he was looking for,” Stafford said. “But too much is at stake for us to simply be quiet and accept his decision. This law is threat to everyone. And Scott was elected on the premise that he would represent all Floridians — not just those who shared his views. The landscape that he proposes is questionable. It looks like his intention was to clone himself and get like-minded folks on the task force.”
Bullard says he was incensed when he realized that George Zimmerman [the murder of Trayvon Martin now on trial] had two people from his district chosen to serve on the task force.
“It looks like Scott wants to make sure Zimmerman’s rights are protected but he sure doesn’t seem to care about the rights of Trayvon,” Bullard said. “We will be requesting a copy of the so-called applications that were received by Carroll. No one I know, including State Senator Gary Siplin, ever received or turned in an application for the task force. I don’t believe such a document ever existed.
Views from the community
Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis, pastor of The Church of the Open Door, whose sanctuary served as the venue for the meeting, says the church needs to organize around the issue of racial profiling and make its opinions known.
“In the last several years we have witnessed subtle but significant changes in our environment and in the laws of the land,” he said. “If we remain silent these changes will become storms that blow us away. This is reminiscent of the things I experienced in the 1960s. I thought all of that was over but it’s clear that the attitudes that divided our county back then have been resurrected.”
Rev. Nathaniel Wilcox, executive director for P.U.L.S.E. says he has little faith that the governor will even respond to the letter that Bullard sent to him.
“We need our leaders to show some righteous indignation,” he said. “Community leaders must galvanize the troops — the people will follow.”
At the time this story went to press, neither Bullard or Watson had heard from Scott’s office.
By D. Kevin McNeir