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Tallahassee: Rally tells lawmakers to reject repressive legislation

By Natalie Kazim |
March 7, 2021
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Tallahassee, FL - On March 2, the first day of legislative session, organizers from across the state of Florida gathered in front of the Old Historic Capitol Building to highlight the statewide fight against Governor Ron DeSantis’ anti-protest legislation, House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 484 (HB1/SB484).

“With people power, we can always win,” said Angie Nixon, longtime community organizer and newly elected representative of the 14th District.

HB1 and SB484 threaten protesters like the ones who came out on March 2. The legislation, if passed, would:

  • Withhold state funding from local governments that redirect tax-payer funds from the police to social programs.
  • Eliminate bail until trial for anyone arrested at a protest.
  • Make it a felony to obstruct the roads, and not hold drivers accountable for intentionally hitting, injuring, and even killing [people perceived to be] protesters on streets.
  • Prohibit “specified assemblies” from partaking in “disorderly” and “violent” conduct or “encouraging and inciting” a riot.
  • Up the minimum penalty for actions that are already illegal, i.e. vandalism, battery, and theft, when those actions are done in the context of a protest.
  • Bar from state and education employment people arrested at protests, and bar them from receiving unemployment benefits, and take away their right to vote.

Governor DeSantis and his supporters claim that HB1/SB494 was inspired by events at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, but a version of that legislation was already drafted and released in September, 2020, right on the heels of brutal mass arrests of anti-police brutality demonstrators in Tallahassee and across Florida.

“This bill is a direct response to the progress we made this summer,” asserted Christina Kittle of Jacksonville Community Action Committee. “This is not going to keep protesters off the streets; this is going to put community members in our already overcrowded jails!”

Tallahassee Community Action Committee member Daisy Sim said that HB1/SB484 would make the already difficult job of organizing no-arrest protests nearly impossible. By vocally resisting the passing of the bill, she hopes, “To encourage people - and to show that there are more supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement than some might think.”

Representative Michelle Raynor-Goolsby spoke to the broad and dangerous scope of the bill: “This is an anti-Black bill, this is an anti-brown bill, this is an anti-woman bill... Anti- any American who finds their rights to be not human rights but privileges to be voted on. And this brings not only marginalized folks’ rights into question. This bill threatens our First Amendment right as Americans, and anyone has the right to resist that.” Later on Raynor-Goolsby reflected on the diversity of opposition to the legislation, “We could see it in the crowd. Folks of many races, ethnicities, sexualities and genders were out protesting with us. We all have to come together to fight for our rights. Fight for everyone or fight for no one.”

Michael Sampson, of Jacksonville Community Action Committee, told the crowd that as long as HB1 was being voted on, people would still continue to fight against it, and that if it passed in the House, people would continue to fight it in the Senate.

Assata Shakur’s famous declaration of resistance and solidarity resonated throughout the protest - on handmade signs and giant banners held aloft; in the voices of speakers wrenching chants from their chests; and in the voices of attendees chanting back.

The protest concluded in unison, and in defiance of legislation that seeks to imprison and disenfranchise all in attendance, “We have nothing to lose but our chains!”