Arkansas Senator Stephanie Flowers gave a tearful speech opposing a “stand your ground” bill, USA Today is reporting. “Stand Your Ground” laws were initially enacted to allow people to defend themselves when they are feeling physically threatened, but the laws quickly became controversial when many unarmed black men were killed and the culprits were let off under the technicalities of this law. Specifically, the law allows a person to use any amount of force — even if it’s deadly — if they feel that they are at risk and could endure serious harm or even death.
Many public homicide cases involve this law, such as the 2012 incident when George Zimmerman shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin in a Florida neighborhood. Zimmerman was acquitted with the help of Florida’s “stand your ground” law, and the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum as a result. Researchers conducted a study in 2017 that showed evidence that the amount of homicides in Florida increased in 2005 after the law was officially enacted. In addition, the researchers found that people of color were disproportionately affected by this law. When a similar law was proposed in Arkansas, Flowers was personally affected as she is a black woman with a black son.
“This is crazy! You don’t have to worry about your children!” Flowers declared during a hearing this week. “I worry about my son and I worry about other little black boys and girls and people coming into my neighborhood, into my city, saying they have open carry rights.”
Flowers was clearly emotional, having even raised her voice to get her point across. Flowers is the only black legislator on the state judiciary committee, and argued that the debate regarding a Stand Your Ground law should last longer in order for the committee to get the full story and explore both sides of the issue.
“I am the only person here of color, OK. And I am a mother, too,” she said. “I care as much for my son as y’all care for y’alls, but my son doesn’t walk the same path as yours does.”
There eventually came a time where Republican state Senator Alan Clark told Flowers to “stop.”
“What are you gonna do, shoot me?” Flowers hit back to Clark’s request.
Flowers’ passionate plea went viral after many people on social media felt the fear and pain behind her words. Her message evidently came across to those attending the hearing too — the committee voted against the “Stand Your Ground” measure 4-3.