Fourteen protesters were arrested on Wednesday after staging a sit-in outside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office to protest legislation recently passed in the state.
Dream Defenders, an activist group established after the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., ten years ago, staged the sit-in with the intention of staying put—if necessary for days— until the governor would meet them in person. The Dream Defenders website describes the association as a socialist, internationalist group that campaigns for black feminism and the abolition of prisons, among other things.
DeSantis did not meet the protesters.
The building closed at 7 p.m., and the protesters were given until 7:30 p.m. to leave, after which fourteen of the remaining activists were arrested.
No altercations occurred during the protest or the arrests.
The protest began around 1 p.m. when dozens of Dream Defenders activists and people from allied organizations gathered in front of the governor’s reception desk on the first floor of the Florida Capitol. As their numbers increased, they spread across the hallway, chanting, singing, and giving speeches.
“Where’s Ron?” they chanted.
After some time, protesters stood up and interlocked arms to block the doors leading into the governor’s office.
“We are occupying DeSantis’s office to demand that he come face the people of Florida who he is attacking to fuel his presidential aspirations,” said activist CJ Staples in a statement released after the event. “We’re also sending a message to the country that politicians that seek to dismantle what’s left of our democracy are not welcome here and will be met with resistance everywhere, and we hope to help develop the organizations necessary to accomplish that.”
The Dream Defenders were there to protest legislation passed by the Florida State Legislature, such as the Parental Rights in Education bill or “Don’t Say Gay” bill that the governor is signing into law. The legislation prohibits hormone therapy and puberty blockers for minors; blocks children from attending drag shows; prohibits teachers from asking children about their gender; and prohibits people from using bathrooms that don’t align with their biological sex.
The law banning sex-change medical procedures for minors bears the approval of the state Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine.
In their statement, the Dream Defenders organization claimed that the sit-in was part of a national campaign that seeks to paint “an alternative vision for the country to the agenda of extremist politicians like DeSantis.”
Rachel Gilmer, Director of the Healing Justice Center, one of the participating activist-groups, described DeSantis as a racist and a “neo-confederate.”
The fourteen protesters were handcuffed and led away by the police, have been banned from entering the Capitol for a year, and are facing charges of trespass.
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