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See Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried, senator handcuffed during abortion protest

NewsSee Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried, senator handcuffed during abortion protest

The chair of Florida’s Democratic Party Nikki Fried and Senate Minority leader Lauren Book were among demonstrators who were handcuffed and detained at an evening protest for abortion rights outside Tallahassee City Hall.

The two were among a number of protesters who were taken away by police after singing “Leon on Me” inside a barricaded area that was closed at sunset.

They were warned by police that if they didn’t leave the area, they would be subject to arrest. Protesters yelled “shame, shame” as they were taken away by police.

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How the stage was set for arrests

The sunset showdown was set early in the day, hours before the Florida Senate would pass a 6-week abortion ban on a largely party line vote.

Opponents outside Tallahassee City Hall gathered at 8 a.m. for what they promised to be multiple days of protests in Tallahassee to defend “reproductive freedom.”

OccupyTally believed it had a city permit for a rally this week, but said it was revoked by officials. 

Democratic Chair Nikki Fried was arrested by the Tallahassee Police Department along with Sen. Lauren Book and about a dozen activists who were sitting in a circle singing ÒLean on MeÓ outside of City Hall on Monday, April 3, 2023. The group was speaking out in opposition to SB 300, which would put in place a six-week abortion ban.

The city said it tried to work with the protestors but then realized the group wanted people statewide to come to Tallahassee and occupy the plaza in front of City Hall for an extended period of time, which the city won’t permit.

In 2012, the last time an “occupy” group was active during a legislative session, the group camped out on state property along Gaines Street, a couple of blocks south of the Capitol. 

OccupyTally wants to be across the street from the Capitol to continue to do what they did Monday morning, greet lobbyists and legislative staffers with chants of “No uterus, No opinion,” as they walked to work. 

But the possibility of people sleeping on city property raised liability questions, said Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, a former state lawmaker himself.

And city spokesperson Alison Faris said the city had tried to work with the organizers on the permit, “however due to the size of the crowd they are expecting, and their desire for overnight camping, we are simply unable to accommodate them.” 

Thursday Tallahassee erected a sign along the walkway into City Hall that bans overnight camping.  

No one seemed to notice it until Monday morning when the protesters incorporated it into their makeshift graveyard for abortion rights.  

Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried and Florida Senate Democratic leader Lauren Book were arrested Monday as part of a protest over an abortion ban.

Richardson examined the sign while nearly two dozen protesters milled about before heading to the Capitol to disrupt lawmakers.  

He said the sign was not specifically meant for OccupyTally. 

“But nobody had ever asked to camp out in front of City Hall before,” said Richardson. 

Kat Duesterhaus of Florida Now said the city’s decision made the coalition sad but didn’t change any plans. 

Before sunrise Monday, a cross-generation of women, high school students in jeans, college-age wearing fishnet stockings and cowboy boots, middle aged women in t-shirts, and a senior with knitting needles in hand set up tables along West Jefferson Street and unloaded cases of water,  boxes of apples, bananas, and oranges, 150 toasted bagels, along with signs, banners, and flags. 

“This is an open rebellion. What DeSantis and the Republican Legislature is doing, we are not putting up with,” said Debbie Deland, the President of Florida Now. 

SB 300 imposes a six-week abortion ban, contingent on the state Supreme Court upholding a 15-week ban that went into effect last year. A legal challenge argues the ban violates a privacy clause in the state constitution that has previously upheld abortion rights in Florida. 

Deborah Deland is President of Florida Now and is part of the OccupyTally coalition

The coalition of Florida Now, Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida, Progress Florida’s Reproductive Freedom Program and Indivisible Pro Choice Pinellas has raised $15,000 for the protest. 

They understand the city does not want them camping on the plaza after sunset.

But Sarah Parker of Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida said that’s the City of Tallahassee’s choice to ask them to leave, but she and others chose to come to Tallahassee to protest “DeSantis using women’s bodies to advance a his career.”

“We acknowledge at sundown that they may ask us to leave. We will make our personal decisions at that time. This is a big deal for us,” said Parker, who added she hopes television cameras are there when its decision time for the city and protesters. 

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