TALLAHASSEE (CBS4/AP) — Protesters who have taken up residence at the Florida Capitol demonstrating their displeasure at the George Zimmerman trial have racked up extra security costs, State law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
Officials say protesters are refusing to leave the building until Gov. Rick Scott called a special session. They want the Legislature to repeal the state’s “stand your ground” law and pass a law aiming to end racial profiling.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released an estimate of how much has been spent since July 15 — or one day before the protest started.
FDLE estimated that the overall cost as of Tuesday was nearly $98,000 due to overtime and the need to have extra officers present. Part of that cost, however, includes what would have been spent normally during that time period.
An FDLE spokeswoman said that an estimated $37,000 has been spent on overtime. But Gretl Plessinger said even the overtime figure is “pretty soft” because the state is in the middle of a pay period and the final amount could change.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was acquitted earlier this month of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the shooting death last year of Travyon Martin, an unarmed black teenager. Zimmerman’s attorneys maintained he shot Martin in self-defense, but the delay in arresting Zimmerman sparked an outcry among civil rights groups and others. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.
The protesters arrived three days after the acquittal and remained through the weekend. They have slept on mats in the hallways of the Capitol and have gotten donations of food from outsiders as well as legislators such as state Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee.
The numbers of people staying each night has shifted but there were 34 protesters who stayed overnight Monday.
Scott, a Republican who met with the protesters last week, has repeatedly said he will not call a special session. He said he supports the current “stand your ground” law that allows someone to use deadly force if they believe their life is danger.
The protesters have remained adamant they will not leave.
“We said we would be here until we won, until we got what we wanted,” said Phillip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders, the main group behind the protest. “What we want is a special session and somebody is going to give it to us.”
Agnew’s group announced Tuesday it would hold a mock legislative session over the next few weeks and bring in experts to explain why the state’s laws should be changed. Agnew said they did not know yet where they would hold their meetings.
FDLE on Tuesday also released a summary of incident reports it has compiled since the protest began. The reports note that officers asked protesters to remove an air mattress because the agency stated they could block access to hallways and exits in the event of an emergency.
FDLE officers escorted one protester out of the building after finding the person in the lower level of the Capitol, the report states.
Officers also found two men with no shirts on and a woman in a bra and shorts sleeping in the chapel that is located on the first floor of the Capitol. The officers instructed everyone to get completely dressed and to leave the chapel.
The agency noted that Williams — whose office is inside the Capitol — has brought foot to protesters after the building’s doors were locked.
Said the lawmaker: “I will continue to do that as long as I’m in town and I am available.”
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