TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It is Day 24 of the protest at the Florida Capitol and the protesters say they have no plans to end their round-the-clock vigil outside Gov. Rick Scott's office.
On Thursday, members of the Dream Defenders announced they are launching a voter registration drive with the goal of voting Gov. Scott out of office.
They say they want to register at least 61,550 new voters by the 2014 election. That was the margin of victory for Rick Scott in the 2010 election.
The protesters have been pushing for a special legislative session to focus on Florida's Stand Your Ground law, racial profiling and zero-tolerance school policies.
Gov. Scott and legislative leaders insist they will not call a session, but House Speaker Will Weatherford has agreed to hold a hearing on the Stand Your Ground law when lawmakers return to Tallahassee for committee meetings this fall.
Dream Defenders spokesman Phillip Agnew says the group's voter registration drive will aim to build political power for young people in Florida.
"We intend to register the people that are forgotten. The black, the brown, the indigent, the poor, the LGBTQ community and we will meet them where they are in their classrooms, at the mall, at the club, on the corner, at the bus stop."
Agnew said the Dream Defenders want to build their political power so they can have their issues heard by lawmakers who care. They're also looking to elect some of their own members to the Legislature.
"So that when the time comes again for us to move on issues like school-to-prison pipeline, like racial profiling, like Stand Your Ground, we don't have to sit on the floor again. We can stand on the floor. We can have our issues heard by lawmakers who genuinely care because they come from our community. Indeed, it is our plan to vote on our issues and to eventually have some of us standing in these halls."
The protest started their Capitol sit-in on July 16 because they were upset with the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman. They believe Florida has passed a set of rules and laws, like Stand Your Ground, that created an environment that led to the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
They oppose what they describe as "extreme school discipline policies" that disproportionately affect minority students with suspensions and arrests.
Annie Thomas, a high school senior from Miami, described her own story of getting caught in the "school-to-prison" pipeline.
She said both of her parents became ill when she was 15 years old and she had to stay home to take care of them. She said she missed a lot of school in the process, and instead of asking her what was going on, she was sent to a charter school and "shuffled throughout the system."
"Our school system doesn't even care about our youth of color anymore. We're just constantly pushed around. We're nothing but statistics in this world and we're sick of it. We're sick of the injustice and the criminalization and we're standing against it."
Many of the Dream Defenders are college students and classes will resume soon. They were asked how they will manage to continue the vigil at the Capitol and still be able to go to school.
Agnew said they would make it happen with "discipline."
"We will indeed stay. But this is just one tactic, one tool in our toolbox to continue to build power for our communities."
Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott's administration is subtly putting pressure on the protesters' round-the-clock vigil by issuing a daily estimate of the additional costs that are racking up as a result of extra security at the Capitol.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement estimates the Capitol protest cost taxpayers more than $140,000 in overtime pay through Day 24 of the sit-in.