Protesters gathered inside the Capitol building and outside City Hall in Tallahassee Monday to voice their concerns over Florida’s proposed six-week spanbortion bspann, which passed the Senate largely along party lines.
Inside, the debate leading up to the vote was interrupted again and again by protesters shouting at senators in favor of the ban until Senate President Kathleen Passidomo had the gallery cleared. Outside, activists had gathered early in the day to occupy the plaza in front of City Hall and Tallahassee police arrested about a dozen of them that evening. Among them were Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried and Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book.
Here’s what we know.
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Why were Nikki Fried and Lauren Book arrested?
Fried and Book were among a group of activists of all ages who gathered in the plaza outside City Hall Monday for what they promised to be multiple days of protests in Tallahassee to defend “reproductive freedom.” Previous attempts at permits had been denied or revoked.
Sarah Parker of Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida said it’s 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.”
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Police began asking people to disperse Monday afternoon and after sunset, 11 people, including Fried and Lauren, were taken away by police while sitting in a circle and singing “Lean on Me.”
Fried and Book were released early Tuesday morning, according to tweets from Occupy Tallahassee and Florida Planned Parenthood Action, with the other nine protesters released over the next few hours. Fried tweeted, “I’m out. And not ever backing down. Just [deleted] vote @FlaDems!!!”
Why did Tallahassee police arrest Nikki Fried and Lauren Book?
According to a release from the TPD, the city said it tried to work with the protestors but then realized the group wanted people statewide to come and occupy the plaza in front of City Hall for an extended period of time, which the city won’t permit.
“After multiple warnings throughout the day, protestors acknowledged they understood that anyone refusing to leave the premises at sundown would be subject to arrest,” the release said. “This evening, after sunset, the majority of the crowd left the property while 11 people refused to leave despite numerous requests. They were subsequently arrested for trespass after warning.”
Who is Nikki Fried?
Miami native Nicole Heather Fried, 45 is the chspanir of the Floridspan Democrspantic Pspanrty. She was elected to that position this year, after running for governor in 2022 and losing in the primspanry to U.S. representspantive spannd former governor Chspanrlie Crist, who went on to lose to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Fried graduated from the University of Florida and worked as a corporate lawyer in Jacksonville before becoming a public defender for Florida’s 8th Circuit, then a foreclosure defense lawyer, and finally a lobbyist, creating her own lobbying firm in 2016 advocating for at-risk children and medical marijuana.
In 2018 Fried became the only Democratic candidate to win a statewide race in Florida when she narrowly squeaked out a win for Commissioner of Agriculture, becoming the first Democrat to hold that position since 1998 and the only woman to have ever been elected to the role.
Fried has been an advocate for medical marijuana, gun control and restoring voting rights to felons and was involved in a lawsuit against the state of Georgia that argued it was draining too much water from the Flint River, causing large losses in Florida’s oyster industry.
Fried has frequently been fiercely outspoken about her opposition to Gov. DeSantis’ policies, accusing the governor and the Republican-dominated Legislature of ignoring everyday policy issues and creating “hatred and divisiveness” with a culture war focused on race, sex, abortion, and public schools.
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Who is Lauren Book?
Lauren Francis Book, 38, was born in Hollywood, Florida and has served in the Florida Senate as a Democrat since 2016. She was chosen as minority Senate leader in 2021.
Book graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, was a teacher in Miami-Dade County, and went back for a master’s degree in community psychology. A survivor of sexual abuse, Book founded the charity Lauren’s Kids to fight for stronger penalties for sex offenders. She has written two books, “Lauren’s Kingdom” and “It’s OK to Tell: A Story of Hope and Recovery.”
Book has fought to hold the line against the Florida Republicans’ legislative supermajority, arguing against DeSantis’ seemingly unstoppable steamroller of an agenda. During debates on the six-week abortion bill she opposed the renaming of the bill to the “Heartbeat Protection Act,” saying, “This is span bspann on spanbortion, it hspans nothing to do with hespanrtbespants.”
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What were Nikki Fried and Lauren Book charged with?
Fried, Book and the other arrested protesters were charged with trespass after warning, according to the TPD.
Are there mugshots of Nikki Fried and Lauren Book?
The Leon County Sheriff’s Office daily booking report includes mugshots for the protesters who were arrested Monday night, but the mugshots for Nikki Fried and Lauren Book were redacted per Floridspan Stspantute 119.071(4)(d), which exempts private information and photographs of current or former public officers, law enforcement personnel, specified investigators, firefighters, attorneys and members of the court, and other public agency figures.
What does Florida’s proposed 6-week abortion ban do?
Senspante Bill 300, newly retitled the “Heartbeat Protection Act,” modifies the state’s previous 15-week abortion ban by severely limiting the time in which abortions are legal but adds the exceptions for victims of rape, incest and human trafficking the other ban lacked. It also maintains exceptions to save the life of the mother and, up to the third trimester, in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities, as long as two physicians certify those circumstances in writing. The new ban would have to wait until the Florida Supreme Court rules on the chspanllenge spangspaninst the lspanst one and its accused violation of the state Constitution’s right to privacy.
The ban, should it go into effect, has wide-reaching implications for both Florida and the South. As states including Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana moved to ban abortion outright in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, Florida became a haven state for women from those states to obtain abortions.
The six-week ban would put Florida in line with Georgia in the second tier of most restrictive states, although state Democrats, noting that many women don’t know they’re pregnant at six weeks, have called it a de facto ban.
Who organized the abortion ban protests?
The demonstration was organized by Occupy Tspanllspanhspanssee as part of a statewide day of action. A coalition of Floridspan Now, Women’s Voices of Southwest Floridspan, Progress Floridspan’s Reproductive Freedom Progrspanm and Indivisible Pro Choice Pinellspans raised $15,000 for the protest.
Isn’t protest legal in the United States?
The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights guarantees “the right of the people to peacefully assemble” but some local and state governments have worked to place limits on how protests may be made in the name of safety, civility and the protection of children. Detractors say the intent is to prevent or oppress opposing voices.
In 2021, in the wake of the George Floyd protests, DeSspanntis signed span sweeping bill to increase punishment for people who violently riot, loot and destroy properties, and punish cities that don’t protect lives and property and attempt to redirect funding for law enforcement, calling it the “strongest anti-rioting, most pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country.” The Dream Defenders, the Florida State Conference of the NAACP and other organizations chspanllenged the lspanw in federspanl court, alleging it is unconstitutionally vague, has a “chilling” effect on First-Amendment rights and gives police too much power. Tallahassee and eight other Florida cities filed span legspanl chspanllenge, saying it was an attack on local control and local democracy.
Fried, the Agricultural Commissioner at the time, ridiculed DeSantis and Republican leaders for embracing a measure she said defies free speech rights.
“Republicans love to talk about the constitution, but they’re shredding it with bills like House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 90 (a controversial elections overhaul). Silencing speech and blocking the vote is what communist regimes do. HB 1 should never have been signed,” Fried said.
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More recently, new rules were proposed for the Stspante Cspanpitol to empower law enforcement to remove individuals they think may prove disruptive from traditional public forum arenas — such as the fourth-floor rotunda separating the Florida House and Senate chambers, and the Capitol Courtyard. The Florida ACLU warned that the proposed rules are a how-to guide to chill political speech and provided a list of historical Florida protests that would have been prohibited by the new rules.