This year, as politicians vie for elected office in the Sunshine State, we - Black, immigrant and poor young people from Pensacola to the Keys - have launched our own agenda for the future of Florida. In 2018, we were killed in our classrooms and on street corners. We were locked inside Florida’s prisons and the keys were thrown away. We live in a state with more billionaires than almost anywhere in the country, yet, our parents and our teachers didn’t have the basic resources they needed to keep us safe.
This ends today. In 2018, we aren't demanding "change" or "hope", though both are welcome. We are demanding that our elected representatives put our safety before corporate profits. The Freedom Papers is our vision for a Florida that is able to serve the everyday needs of its people. Our state spends $55,000 a year to jail our children, and only $7,000 a year to educate them. They tell us they don’t have money for raises, for books, for food stamps and for housing. What they don’t tell us is that these resources have been stolen from us by big corporations like prison giant the GEO Group and murder lobby the National Rifle Association. They have bought-off our elected officials to build a Florida that serves their needs and turning our state into a for-profit police state at the expense of the safety of our children.
We can live in a state -- in a country -- where no child is left alone, in the cold, or behind bars, where children feel free and safe when they walk to the store, play in the park, or are on their way to school in the morning. We can live in a state where parents and teachers are given everything they need to support the raising of our children. We don’t have to let another parent lose their child to a bullet, a badge or a dollar sign. This Florida is possible, but only with a drastic shift in our politician’s priorities - one that values the needs of every day people, rather than fattening the wallets of a few.
Today, we ask that you choose to support this vision. We want a state and country that keeps its children safe, a Florida and U.S. that gives everyday people - who have been forced to struggle for far too long just to survive - their Freedom Papers.
On March 14th, students are going to be walking out of their schools to protest gun violence. That night Dream Defenders will be hosting a youth-led conversations across the state on the real causes and solutions to gun violence. Guns are in the national spotlight right now but they've been affecting many of our communities for a long time. What's it look like to change gun laws and not have it backfire on our neighbors?
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On December 15th, 2017, 15-year-old Mohammad Tamimi was shot in the face by an Israeli soldier while participating in an unarmed protest of Trump's Jerusalem declaration. Just minutes later, his 16-year-old cousin Ahed rose up to protect her family’s home after two armed soldiers invaded her yard. For over 50 years, the Israeli army has stationed itself on Palestinian land in order to enforce its violent military occupation of the West Bank. Ahed stood her ground and asked the soldiers to leave. When they refused and tried to use her property as a base from which to shoot at protesters, she slapped one of them.
Ahed was arrested a few days later in the middle of the night. Her cousin Noor and her mother Nariman were also arrested. All three have been indicted by Israel's military court, which has a 99.7% conviction rate and lacks basic fair trial protections. Ahed has been denied bail and her trial will begin February 12th. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for her release.
In the US, we know all too well what it's like to be oppressed simply because you exist, because you refuse to give up your fight for freedom. Last year, a Dream Defenders delegation of artists traveled to Palestine to bear witness to life under Israel military occupation and met the Tamimi family in their village of Nabi Saleh. Songs and stories of struggle were shared, from the US to Palestine. The Tamimis spoke about their daily lives — the Israeli army patrolling and shooting into their streets as their children play, Israeli settlers stealing their water. The delegation learned that every year hundreds of Palestinian kids across the West Bank are arrested and detained by Israeli soldiers and police who kick, punch, and beat them. Torture is routinely used to get signed confessions from children, mainly on charges of stone throwing.
While our struggles may be unique, the parallels cannot be ignored. US police, ICE, border patrol and FBI train with Israeli soldiers, police, and border agents, utilizing similar repressive profiling tactics to target and harass our communities. Too many of our children quickly learn that they may be imprisoned or killed simply for who they are. From Trayvon Martin to Mohammed Abu Khdeir and Khalif Browder to Ahed Tamimi - racism, state violence and mass incarceration have robbed our people of their childhoods and their futures.
In a bold move to protect Palestinian children like Ahed from widespread abuse by Israeli forces, Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota introduced an unprecedented bill last November entitled: Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act. The bill has 22 co-sponsors and counting.
We the undersigned call on all US representatives to sign this bill and protect the lives and childhoods of Palestinian children.
The Tamimi family stands up to Israel's brutality because they believe Palestinians, like ALL people, should be free. Dream Defenders stands with them and all Palestinians in their righteous struggle. Now, and always, we commit to building a more just and loving world for us all.
Marc Lamont Hill
Gary Clark Jr.
Robin D.G. Kelley
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