Dream Defenders

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Dream Defenders "was founded in 2012 to make powerful change come to Florida."[1]

According to their website, "Dream Defenders are building a powerful, deep, local, organization and movement for freedom and liberation in Florida."[2]

It was founded by Ahmad Abuznaid, Gabriel Pendas and Phillip Agnew.

Also see Dream Defenders Palestine Delegation and Dream Defenders Action.

Background

Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald profiled the Dream Defenders in 2013.[3]

Verbatim:

"They are young Floridians from Jacksonville to Miami. They are college students and schoolteachers, lawyers, community organizers and social workers. They make up a rainbow of American colors: black, white and brown. And they are literally sitting down for a cause, refusing to leave Gov. Rick Scott’s office.
"They call themselves the Dream Defenders. Over the past four days, they have brought national attention to the Florida Capitol by staging the longest sit-in demonstration in recent memory. They have vowed to stay put until Scott convenes a special legislative session on Stand Your Ground, the controversial self-defense law that factored into George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
"The governor has refused to meet the young activists’ demands. But their persistence has galvanized state Democratic lawmakers, who have turned up the pressure for a special session.
"It’s no small feat for a grass-roots organization that got its start in Miami just over a year ago.
"“It’s been pretty surreal,” said Phillip Agnew, the group’s 28-year-old executive director. “And we’re just getting started.”
"Agnew has experience with civil disobedience — and prolonged stays at the Florida Capitol.
"He was the student body vice president at Florida A&M University when 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson was beaten to death at a Florida boot camp in 2006. At the time, Agnew was more interested in parties than protests. But when he realized that Martin Lee Anderson was the same age as his own little brother, Agnew joined student-led efforts to demonstrate at the capitol.
""That’s when he got to know Gabriel Pendas and Ahmad Abuznaid, like-minded student leaders at Florida State University.
"The three helped organize a 33-hour sit-in of then-Gov. Jeb Bush’s office. The demonstration received national coverage, and helped prompt the closing of the boot camp and the resignation of the state’s top law enforcement official.
"It was a formative experience for the three young men. Pendas, who grew up in Miami, abandoned his plans to become a physicist and pursued a career in community organizing.
"Agnew, the son of a Chicago preacher, said he, too, found his calling.
"“I spoke in front of 5,000 people,” he recalled. “I literally opened my mouth and my father came out. It was like, this is what I was meant to do.”
"The three friends “became brothers that night,” Pendas said.
"After college, however, they lost touch. Pendas moved to New York to work as a community organizer in the Bronx. Abuznaid graduated from law school and was living with his father in Amsterdam.
"Agnew was working a pharmaceutical sales rep in Charlotte. “I hated my job,” he said. “I felt horrible about what I was doing.”
"When the Occupy movement took hold in September 2011, Agnew began to agitate. Five months later, Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon in a gated-community in Sanford.
"Agnew got on the phone with Pendas, Abuznaid and the others who had taken part in the 2006 protest. They planned a 40-person march from Daytona to Sanford in April 2012. When the group arrived, six members blocked the door to the Sanford Police Department headquarters to protest the fact that Zimmerman had not yet been arrested.
"“It was a continuation of our work with Martin Lee Anderson,” Pendas said. “Another young man of color had been killed. We needed to take a stand.”
"They had a new name: the Dream Defenders.
"“It was the perfect framework,” Pendas said. “Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. Millions of Latino students have a dream.” The latter is a reference to the fight undocumented immigrant children are waging in Congress to gain legal status through the DREAM Act.
"The march turned out to be just the beginning. A handful of current FAMU and Florida State students had become involved in the Dream Defenders through Facebook and Twitter. And the young activists were hungry for next steps.
"That’s when the idea really coalesced. The Dream Defenders would do more than just advocate for social justice causes: They would develop the next generation of student leaders.
"Agnew, Abuznaid and Pendas moved into a house in Miami Lakes — it was later nicknamed the Dream House — and began to develop the organization.
"The Dream Defenders now has chapters on nine college campuses in Florida. More than 100 student members have campaigned to end prison privatization, racial profiling and zero tolerance policies in schools.
"“They make the decisions on what kind of campaigns they want to run and we help them facilitate it,” said Abuznaid, who serves as the group’s legal and policy director. “The leadership is shared between us and the students.”
"The organization survives on private donations and contributions from local unions. Agnew receives a small salary as executive director, but Abuznaid, Pendas and the other staffers work for free. They hope to continue expanding and eventually have a fully funded staff that receives health benefits.
"For now, they are focused on the ongoing occupation of Scott’s office, which began Tuesday.
"About 60 Dream Defenders are taking part in the demonstration, including Agnew, Abuznaid, Pendas and a handful of others from the 2006 sit-in. They have been joined by eight students from Miami’s Power U Center for Social Change.
"For the group’s younger members, the demonstration has been a learning experience. The students are essentially shut in for the night when the Capitol closes at 5 p.m. They sleep on thin mats on the marble floor. Even at night, the harsh overhead lights stay on.
"During the day, the activists have hours-long discussions about social justice, and attend workshops on community organizing, effective communication and leadership. Taking a cue from the Occupy movement, they have divided into committees to handle media, logistics, outreach and clean up.
"“We who believe in freedom cannot rest,” they often sing. “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it’s won.”
"Jonel Edwards, a recent University of Florida graduate from Miramar, said she has spent some time reflecting on leadership.
"“For the most part, I’m a very quiet person,” she said. “But I’m learning to speak up more and take the lead. It’s empowering to put yourself out there.”
"For 26-year-old Travis Roberts, a senior at FAMU, the takeaway has been patience and respect.
"“I’ve learned that there are some people who don’t look like me, but who are here to help,” he said. “Not all of the state of Florida is evil. We have supporters across the city and across the state.”
"How long the demonstration will go on remains to be seen.
"The group leaders say they won’t leave until Scott has convened a special session to consider a Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act, which would repeal the Stand Your Ground law, and end the school-to-prison pipeline that has led to a high percentage of young black men being incarcerated at an early age.
"Scott met with seven of the students late Thursday and said he would not call the Legislature to Tallahassee. He reaffirmed his position on Friday on a visit to Miami.
"But having their demands met might not be the only measure of success.
"“It’s also about a paradigm shift,” Agnew said. “It’s about empowering the next generation.”

Statewide Alliance Group

From JoHanna Thompson writing on the Freedom Road Socialist Organization's website:

Despite his position on anti-BDS legislation, Gillum seemed like someone who comrades could work with in office.
Falling in line with the New Confederacy, DeSantis was less concerned with changing liberal minds than attacking liberal ideologies, making inaccurate associations of his opponent, and getting conservative voters to the polls.
One door hanger asked the question, “Does this sound familiar?” It depicted a picture of a street mural, by a local artist, of Andrew Gillum. Underneath the picture were the words, “Andrew Gillum: Another Big Government, Socialist Dictator” followed by three more street murals of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez. It boldly proclaimed, “Don’t let the socialists take over Florida! Republicans must vote, there’s too much at stake.”

On one hand, the door hanger was laughable, while on the other, it spoke to the intentional decision of grassroots organizations and a union to work collectively as Statewide Alliance Group. SWAG specifically consists of: The New Florida Majority, Dream Defenders, Organize Florida, Florida Immigrant Coalition, SEIU, Faith in Florida, and Central Florida Jobs with Justice.

The Dream Defenders (DD) took a deep dive in community to create an ideology reminiscent of the Black Panther Party Ten Point Program with seven freedoms. DD launched the #freedompapers, claiming #thisistheyear, focusing on building with community to target private prison corporations, like GEO Group, and transform the Florida political landscape.

Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) along with Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) and United We Dream focused on immigrant rights and abolishing ICE. The New Florida Majority (NFM), SEIU, Faith in Florida, Jobs with Justice, and the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) Electoral Justice Project appealed to their vast membership bases.
In addition, the Miami Workers Center (MWC) centered the Movement for Black Women and Girls with Soul Sista’s. Power U Center for Social Change continues to inform youth. Community Justice Project (CJP) supported Poetry for the People’s, Maroon Poetry Festival, which amplified the Black Arts Movement and use of art in activism.
The age old social justice organizations such as NAACP, ACLU, Faith in Florida, PACT, and the likes, also joined the effort to get Amendment 4 passed. All used the same messaging in their conversations which advocated for a Yes Vote on Amendment 4. The strategy was to restore the rights of over 1.4 million voters as freedom voters.

It was a brilliant, coordinated strategy in alignment and consistent communication that is beginning to consolidate a united front against the New Confederacy in Florida.[4]

Influencing the FDP

People's Progressive Caucus of Miami-Dade July 1 2018:

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This is what it's about! Led by progressive allies Dream Defenders and FLIC Votes, PPC members and statewide friends pushed the Florida Democratic Party to pass a landmark resolution today to refuse any money from private prisons, their lobbyists, or their PACs. The resolution passed with a landslide 774 votes to 61.

This is how we live our values. We can no longer be a Party of compromise and trade-offs. We must be a Party of "¡No pasarán!", of refusing to give even one inch to the forces of evil that would destroy families and end lives. Resolutions like this are just a small step, but they're the kind of critical actions that we must take to live our values and manifest the moral leadership that our communities require.

Andrew Gillum Rally

On November 11, 2018, SEIU Florida, FLIC Votes, Faith in Florida Action Fund, Dream Defenders Action, and the New Florida Majority held a rally attended by Andrew Gillum.[5]

The Description:

"Faith in Florida Action Fund and our partners are coming together with Mayor Andrew Gillum on Sunday, November 11 to talk about the days following this year's election. Right now, our state is under an unprecedented recount of three statewide races and an additional three local races. We know that the outcome of this year's election will effect our communities for generations to come.
"Join us as we discuss the #FloridaRecount, and why it is important for our state's leadership to #CountEveryVote.
"Hosted by:
"New Mount Olive Baptist Church
"Dr. Marcus Davidson, Senior Pastor
"We pledge to keep a watchful eye, lend moral oversight and provide faithful integrity to the recount process because the outcome will have an impact on all of our futures.
"Please LEAVE YOUR BAGS AT HOME / IN YOUR CAR or they WILL BE SUBJECT TO SEARCH.
"No signs and no bull horns will be allowed inside.
"See you tonight! Thank you!

Attendees

Dream Defenders Advisory Board

As of 2018;[6]

"Education in The Movement"

2646 Central Ave, St. Petersburg Saturday 6 February 2016, organized by Bay Area Dream Defenders.

We are the sons and daughters of slaves and farm-workers. We are Dreamers and the products of a generation that had a Dream. We are 'We Shall Overcome' and 'Si se puede!' We are Phoenix and Selma, the Freedom Rides & the Trail of Dreams, Suffrage & Solidarity.
Come learn about the history of educational justice in St. Petersburg, the civil rights legend Enoch Davis, the local educational crisis in the black community, and the work of the Dream Defenders across the state.

Those indicating attendance on Wherevent included Deborah Anderson, Tristan Lear, Colleen Segers, Ahmad Abuznaid, Jon Tallon, Isha Haley, Sam Bowden, Devan Cheaves, John Muhammad, Abuela Loba, Monica Irene McGrellis, Ibheji Ogundo, Anthony Marcantonio, Eshai Fuller, Chardonnay Ndegeocello Singleton, Maquet Robinson, Jayson James, JerJuan Green, Angela Brown, Ashley Green, Jerry Long, Jillian Corey, Bruce Nissen, Kofi Hunt, Jasmen M. Rogers, Tasha Lowe, Rakiya Burton, Leah McRae, Theresa Jones, Daphne Carter, Bleu Rainer, Kenny Alexander, Caprice Johnson, Maria Jose, Ayaba McKenzie, Brittany Varner].[7]

"Freedom Road Panel: International Women's Day"

Union Ballrooms - Florida Room, Thursday 5 March 2015, 18:00, organized by Tallahassee FRSO.

Members of The Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), the Dream Defenders, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and the Center for Participant Education (CPE) and The F-Word will be hosting a panel in commem]]oration of International Women's Day to cover the most pressing issues faced by women, LGBTQ, and Trans folks in the United States and around the world. In addition the presentation will cover how the Freedom Road Socialist Organization continues to fight for Trans Proletarian Feminism and promotes Women's leadership against Patriarchy and Capitalism within the movement.

We will also celebrate women revolutionaries that have contributed to the struggle. Radical Communist revolutionaries like Claudia Jones, Leila Khaled, Assata Shakur, Yuri Kochiyama, Anuradha Ghandy, and many more.

Those indicating attendance on Wherevent included Melissa Miranda, Maressa Simmons, A.v. Ramanathan, Rosie Richeson, Shivaani Ehsaan, Jessica Schwartz, Andreina Granado, Ansley Jones , Rachel Crooks, Dayli Vazquez, Elizabeth Dedge, Gladys Nobriga, Regina Joseph, Chrisley Carpio, Samantha Miker, TatianaMarie Daguillard, Naomi Bradley, Alexandra Gaskin, Briana Fonte, Shannon Conley, Brooke Ashley, Hasan İncedere, Corey Uhl, Miles Menendez, Chance Zombor, Brad Sigal, Caleb Cineas, Zachary Schultz, Fern Figueroa. [8]

References