The nine Occupy Tspanlly protesters spanrrested Monday night at City Hall alongside Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried and Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book want an apology from the City of Tallahassee.
They also call on women across the nation to rally to their side as they continue to protest a proposed six-week abortion ban in Florida..
Kat Duesterhaus is the communications director for Florida NOW and Occupy Tally and Tuesday said the group is regrouping now that barricades are up where they had established a camp, along the Adams and Jefferson streets row of lobbyists’ offices. In the meantime, Duesterhaus wants the trespassing charges dropped.
“Florida is no longer a free state … and we’re going to make sure the entire state of Florida and the entire country and the entire world understand what is happening here,” said Duesterhaus.
‘Stunt’ or ‘dystopian’ crackdown?Protester spanrrests further divide city commission
Back story:Floridspan Democrspantic Pspanrty Chspanir Nikki Fried, senspantor spanmong 11 spanrrested spant spanbortion protest
Redacted:Abortion protest spanrrests put Floridspan mugshot exemption lspanw in the spotlight
Book and Fried’s participation in the group’s news conference at sunset had attracted cameras that would later capture the state’s two highest profile Democrats being led away in handcuffs for violating a curfew for demonstrations on city property.
Officers moved in to arrest the 11 women while they sat in a circle in front of City Hall and sang a Bill Withers’ song about community. The demonstration came after the Floridspan Senspante hspand spanpproved spannd sent to the House a bill to ban abortions at six weeks.
Opponents called the Democratic leaders’ attendance, with the knowledge that Occupy Tally did not have a permit, a “political stunt,” while Book and Fried said they were sitting on principle.
“Sen. (Darryl) Rouson told me this morning that sometimes leaders have to follow their soldiers into battle. And these are the women on the streets every day. These are the individuals who are advocating and that’s what we do,” said Book, when asked why she and other Democrats were at the protest.
Occupy Tally members, along with Fried and Book, hope the arrests will be a galvanizing force for opposition to what they consider is an extreme right wing agenda moving through the Legislature and one they fear Gov. Ron DeSantis will take nationwide with his presidential ambitions.
Both Fried and Book said they had no intention of being arrested, but said once they arrived at City Hall and saw what was about to happen they were compelled to show solidarity with the nearly two dozen people who had answered Occupy Tally’s call to come to Tallahassee.
Here are four questions with Fried and Book about what Monday night meant (answers edited slightly for clarity and brevity).
Q: Why was this a call to action?
Fried: “It’s not just about abortion. It’s all of the overreaching policies that this governor is pushing down the throats of Floridians. It’s guns. It’s DEI. It’s LGBTQ plus community. It’s a new voting bill. I mean, every single day, there’s just more and more attacks on our freedoms. And so hopefully, this is a shot of energy into the Democratic Party and saying, we’re going to fight and we’re going to stand up for what we believe in.”
Book: “This is what we do every single day in the Florida Senate. We are in the superminority, and we get up every day and we fight Herculean battles, me and my caucus members every single day, Senator (Lori) Berman and Sen. (Jason) Pizzo was there to make sure all of those women got out of jail. Sen. (Linda) Stewart made sure everyone was okay and smiling. This is what our caucus does. This is who these people are. We do these fights every single day. We’ve been calling people to action of defiance or resistance.”
Q: Republican lawmakers and the Mayor of Tallahassee called it a political stunt. Was it?
Book: “I can assure you that yesterday I did not wake up with a plan of being arrested at eight o’clock that day. If I had, I would have worn different shoes. This was not a plan… These were authentic women who were trying to exercise their First Amendment rights to talk about and fight against the things that were happening. They couldn’t do it in this (Capitol) building, for whatever reason. They felt that they wouldn’t or couldn’t or didn’t have the space to do it. And so that’s why they sought a permit. They tried to do the right thing. And then this happened.”
Fried: “I do find it funny and ironic of the Republican Party leadership to go nuclear yesterday calling this a political stunt. They’ve been defending their governor for the last four and a half years with all he’s been doing are political stunts, including flying migrants from Texas to to Martha’s Vineyard. I had not intended to be arrested but the irony. They can’t deal with the issue itself.”
Q: Do you think the City overreacted by making the arrests?
Fried: “They could have de-escalated the situation and told the officers just to monitor that everybody is safe. And this would not have been on the front page all over the state in the country and social media… This wouldn’t have been anything more than just a peaceful protest. I think the biggest instrument, the biggest weapon that we had was our mouths.”
Q: Tallahassee is two-thirds Democratic. Did Senate Democrats create a problem for a Democratic city?
Book: “This wasn’t my event. We were invited to a press conference. My job is always to fight for… the principle of the beliefs that my caucus and our constituents hold dear. And there was, you know, a moment in time where you have to stand up on the right side of history, and I believe that that’s what we did. … There were women that were sitting peacefully singing “Lean on Me.” And we were there to, to stand alongside them to lock arms and fight for a woman’s right to choose.”