Boca Raton, FL - The final presidential debate, held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, was met with a large protest. Dream Defenders, a statewide network fighting for the youth in brown and Black communities, organized the event. Over 200 students and community members from across the state came to demand that the two candidates stop ignoring the issues effecting African American, Latino and other oppressed nationality communities. Police arrested 15 of the protesters for blocking off the intersection of Yamato Road and Military Trail.
Michael Sampson, a member of Tallahassee Dream Defenders, was one of the activists arrested in Boca Raton. He says that the two presidential candidates have ignored the people for too long, and, “It’s time the debate is changed to reflect the needs of brown and Black communities.”
Before the dramatic end of the protest, a rally was held in which 50 students made a circle, and then took turns welcoming those who gathered while they waited for buses from Miami, Tallahassee, and Orlando to arrive through the heavy traffic. Signs read, “Schools not prisons!” and protesters chanted, “Stop deportation, fund education!”
“It is so important for us to be here, since people our age who look like us don’t understand the criminalization of our youth, and that it’s important for the candidates to discuss this issue,” said Melanie Andrade, also of Tallahassee Dream Defenders.
The school-to-prison pipeline was one of the main messages of the protest, since youth of color are jailed at rates higher than white people, and everyone there demanded that money be provided for schools, rather than prisons. “Our education is not even half of what it should be and we’re willing to put our lives on the line to move the debate towards change in our communities, and it doesn’t end with the protest tonight,” Andrade added.
Once the final bus from Orlando arrived, the protesters began lining up on the sidewalk, singing, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest, until its won,” while they made their way to the intersection for the direct action. As they arrived, 15 of the marchers, wearing hoodies and holding a banner reading, “Education not incarceration,” linked arms and sat down in the intersection. Moments later, the police separated the now two groups of protesters, keeping some on the sidewalk, while demanding that those sitting down remove themselves from the street.
The police used large vehicles to block both groups from seeing each other. Despite this, the protesters all continued to sing to each other louder and louder, even after those acting in civil disobedience were arrested and hauled away, where they remained shackled in a police vehicle for three hours before finally being processed.