Dream Defenders, a coalition of students, youth and alumni, who organized in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s murder, have planned a protest in Boca Raton, Florida, to coincide with the last presidential debate.
Specifically, the group hopes to highlight the problems of the country’s rapidly growing prison population, institutional racism and what organizers call the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
“Black and brown people account for 61 percent of the prison population, while they account only for 31 percent of the population of the United States,” the group states on its website.
“This is not by chance. A system of profiling and a society permeated by racism has allowed the private prison system to run rampant through our communities; turning our schools into pipelines to their prisons. Today, black and brown children are becoming the biggest cash crop in Florida.”
Dream Defenders is the group behind the #changethedebate hashtag on Twitter, an online movement that aspired to draw attention to important topics overlooked by the presidential candidates and debate moderators. Twitter users were invited to submit their own suggestions for the candidates, including (but not limited to) climate change, class inequality and gun violence.
Nelini Stamp, an Occupy Wall Street organizer, moved to Florida in order to help students organize because most activists move to the Bay Area or New York City in order to become activists, leaving what Stamp fears is a training vacuum in other states.
“I wanted to stay here, not just for the election, and then leave,” says Stamp. “That’s what a lot of people do. They go to other states, make sure other people come out and vote, building all of these leaders in other communities, and then it’s peace-out after the election.”
Stamp is committed to stay until well after the election is over, to help activists organize, but also to hold leaders accountable post-election.
Stamp sees a lot of parallels between the Occupy movement and her current work fighting to reform the schools-to-prisons pipeline. Wells Fargo, one of the five largest banks in America and a longtime target of Occupy (Wells Fargo was one of the leading subprime mortgage lenders prior to the 2008 crash and was later handed $37 billion from the US government), is also making a killing in the private prisons business.
Wells Fargo, glutted with taxpayer dollars, has been expanding its stake in GEO Group, the second-largest private jailer in America. As Glenn Greenwald points out at Salon, by the end of 2011, Wells Fargo was the company’s second-largest investor, holding 4.3 million shares valued at more than $72 million. By March 2012, that stake had grown to more than 4.4 million shares, worth $86.7 million.