More than 70 protesters, many of them wearing hoodies, staged a "die-in" outside the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago's Loop to protest the "stand your ground" laws promoted by the American Legislative Council, better known as ALEC.
ALEC is holding its 40th anniversary conference this week at the hotel. The organization is behind a number of campaigns to enact right-wing legislation at the state level, including in Wisconsin. ALEC has provided model legislation against immigration, abortion rights and voting rights and gun control.
ALEC's model Stand Your Ground bill is based on Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which was cited as a factor in the fatal shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman was acquitted of charges in connection with Martin's death. Police, early in the investigation, said they didn't arrest Zimmerman because Florida's Stand Your Ground Law allowed him to claim self defense, even though Zimmerman confronted and pursued the unarmed teen.
The hoodies worn by demonstrators at the Aug. 8 action referenced the shooting – Martin was wearing a hoodie the night he died. Some of the hoodies worn by demonstrators had targets on them. And in a mass wave, the demonstrators "died" on the sidewalk outside the hotel.
“As a Latina, Stand Your Ground is detrimental to my safety and that of all people of color,” said protester Angelica Sanchez of the Illinois Hunger Coalition. “I have to worry that if someone doesn’t like my skin color or the way I talk, they’ll decide I’m a threat.”
Shani Smith with Stand Up! Chicago said she is the mother of a black teenager. “These laws encourage people to act on irrational fears fed by biases and prejudice. I know that where I see my son — a caring, creative, vulnerable young man – others may see a dangerous stranger. We’ve lost enough young black men in this country to fear and prejudice.”
At the end of the protest, demonstrators stood and shouted, "Stand Up to ALEC.”
More demonstrations were expected later Aug. 8 and on Aug. 9.