Over 120 Students and Youth March to Challenge Presidential Debate; Fifteen Arrested
Recently released students from across the State aimed to change the debate around the criminalization of nation’s Youth
Boca Raton, FL – As the presidential candidates engaged in their final debate at Lynn University on Monday night, the Dream Defenders marched outside of the site protesting the candidates’ refusal to address issues impacting youth. The Dream Defenders, a diverse group of students and youth from universities and communities all across Florida dedicated to battling racial and educational injustice, demanded to “change the debate”. This continued effort is a part of their current “#ChangeTheDebate” campaign, an attempt by the group and allied community organizations seeking answers from the presidential candidates on their strategies to deal with the ongoing crisis of mass youth criminalization.
The flood of over 120 vocal students—made up of citizens, undocumented Americans, queer-identifying individuals, and straight allies—marched down Yamato Road singing “We who believe in freedom cannot rest; we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it’s won.” The palpable frustration was a response to the eerie lack of discussion on the growing and disturbing trend of mass youth incarceration. Dream Defenders are particularly concerned about how the privatized-prison industry disproportionately affects youth of color. Statistics show that African-American youth make up only 16% of the nation’s overall juvenile population but account for 45% of juvenile arrests. “There is a war on youth going on right now. Our generation is being deported, incarcerated, and labeled criminals. We need a real debate on the issues that matter to us, not on Big Bird and Binders,” said Phillip Agnew, an organizer with the Dream Defenders and one of the “Dream 15.”
As the group reached North Military Trail, fifteen later dubbed the “Dream 15” parted to enter the intersection with a banner reading “Education, NOT incarceration!” Police were soon made aware of their presence and began advising them to depart from the intersection. Shortly after, a warning from Palm Beach County police was made through a loud speaker that if the students did not leave, they would be arrested. The fifteen—compromised of nine females and six males, the majority youth of color—remained sitting in the street with locked arms and an unwavering commitment to song. Police proceeded to arrest each of the youth, to which the singing individuals peacefully complied. The “Dream 15” was put in zip-ties, their ankles shackled, and taken to the county jail. They were released approximately fourteen hours later, unshaken and determined to continue their work in shedding light on the alarming numbers of youth whose lives are being ruined by the private-prison industry. “We cannot and will not be silenced. Our candidates can no longer ignore the facts,” said Caterina Victoria, one of those arrested.
Explained fellow Dream Defender Ciara Taylor, “Like many Americans, the Dream Defenders are disappointed with the deliberate decision of the candidates to not mention the criminalization of our youth. In a state that boasts the largest number of youth in the United States serving life sentences, we understand how critical it is for the candidates to address this overwhelming problem.”