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Ministers Join Fight Against 'Stand Your Ground' Laws

James Wright | 3/25/2014, 5:04 p.m.
Pam Champion, mother of Robert Champion Jr., and Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, attend a press conference on "stand your ground" laws at the National Press Club in D.C. Nancy Shia

Leading ministers of the National Baptist Convention, USA., Inc., announced Tuesday they are working to repeal the controversial "stand your ground" laws around the country through a newly-formed National Pastors' Task Force.

The Rev. R.B. Holmes, pastor of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Fla., along with a dozen of his colleagues, noted attorney Benjamin Crump, Judge Glenda Hatchett and the parents of slain teens Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, converged on the National Press Club in D.C. to protest the laws, which they said are racially discriminatory.

"Enough is enough," Holmes said. "Our young boys are being senselessly killed just for being black teenagers. We have begun the fight in Florida and pledge to carry it across the nation."

Florida recently has become a hotbed for the issue in the wake of several high-profile cases, most notably the trial of George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of Trayvon, an unarmed black teenager, in February 2012. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder after claiming self-defense.

In November of that year, Jordan was shot and killed by Michael Dunn, a white man, at a Florida gas station in November 2012 amid a dispute over loud music coming from Jordan's vehicle. Like Trayvon, Jordan was unarmed at the time.

Though neither Zimmerman nor Dunn invoked the "stand your ground" law as their defense, the outcry against the law only grew louder after Zimmerman's acquittal and a jury's failure to convict Dunn of murdering Davis.

There is currently legislation in the Florida Senate to have the state's "stand your ground" law altered to prevent attackers such as Zimmerman and Dunn to use the law as a defense.

Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, welcomed the ministers' support in her quest to eradicate such laws.

"Black and brown boys do not need to deal with these things," she said of the laws.

Holmes, who works in his city as the arm of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, is a leading candidate for the presidency of the National Baptist Convention, which hold elections for the position in September in New Orleans.

The National Baptist Convention has a membership of several million members. It is not known as a politically-oriented body and its leadership at one point opposed the Rev. Martin Luther King's efforts during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

While repealing "stand your ground" laws is a focal point of Holmes' campaign, he also has a team of ministers working with him on issues such as veteran concerns, health care, saving the family, social justice, using renewable energy, economic development, education and evangelism. Supporters of Holmes’ include the Rev. Jamal Bryant in Baltimore and the Rev. George Holmes, a politically active minister in the District.