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Millennials Challenge the Status Quo

Members of the Dream Defenders protest outside Florida Gov. Rick Scott's office in July. (Mickey Adair/Getty Images)
Members of the Dream Defenders protest outside Florida Gov. Rick Scott's office in July. (Mickey Adair/Getty Images)

Today's youths, like their forebears in the civil rights movement, are turning to strategic protest to challenge the status quo, including fighting to end "Stand your ground" laws, Dani McClain writes at Colorlines.

Since July 16 — three days after the George Zimmerman verdict was announced — [Curtis] Hierro and between a dozen and 60 other Dream Defenders had camped out in Gov. Rick Scott's office, demanding a special legislative session and the consideration of Trayvon's Law, a bill crafted in collaboration with state legislators and the NAACP. The young Floridians are using the direct action tactics its founders honed in a previous takeover of the statehouse and in a march they organized after Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in an effort to turn this post-verdict moment into a movement.

In doing so, they joined others around the country who are turning to civil disobedience and strategic protest as a way to force change, or at least create the conditions for a new conversation about issues ranging from racial profiling to the death penaltyworkers' rights, long term solitary confinement and immigration policy. A spirit similar to the one that motivated 250,000 people to converge on Washington, D.C. 50 years ago this month is moving today. And much of that spirit is being harnessed and directed by millennials.

Young people are filling a role they've held in organizing throughout history, says Cathy Cohen, a University of Chicago political science professor and founder and director of the Black Youth Project. The students who led sit-ins at lunch counters and boarded buses to challenge segregation were part of that vanguard during the civil rights era. Today's organizers who use direct action, from the Dream Defenders to the Dream 9, are part of that legacy.


Read Dani McClain's entire piece at Colorlines.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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