Thursday, April 20, 2006

Students protest at Jeb Bush's office

Students protest at Jeb Bush's office
By Michael Peltier

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Thirty students staged a sit-in at the office of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Wednesday to protest what they called a slow investigation into the death of a teenager at a juvenile boot camp in January.

"It's been 105 days since this young man's death and nothing has been done," said Gabriel Pendas, 23, president of the student senate at Florida State University. "We will stay here until something is done."

Bush, the younger brother of President Bush, was in Washington, and a staff member said she was unsure if he would speak to the students sitting on the floor and in chairs in his outer office.

They declined an offer to meet with Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings.

Martin Lee Anderson, 14, died hours after arriving at the juvenile detention facility in Panama City, Florida, for stealing his grandmother's car and violating probation. A videotape taken at the camp showed guards punching and kicking the boy, who at times appeared limp.

An autopsy by the Bay County medical examiner attributed Anderson's death to internal bleeding from a previously undiagnosed disorder, sickle cell trait. But the autopsy results were heavily criticized and the governor called for an independent investigation into Anderson's death.

Anderson's body was exhumed and a second autopsy conducted. Official results have not been released, but a coroner who observed the second autopsy has said the results of the first autopsy were wrong.

The protesters want the second autopsy to be made public and for the Republican governor to publicly apologize to Anderson's family. They also want law enforcement officials reprimanded, and all seven guards seen in the video arrested and charged.

"This is going to be a historic case," said Vanessa Baden, a 20-year-old FSU student. "We just hope it goes down in history for the right reasons."