Session 2012 kicks off with protests

Jan 10, 2012

It’s the first day of the 2012 Legislative Session, and Florida residents from all across the state voiced their outrage at how the Governor and the Republican-led Legislature are doing so far at the old Capitol Tuesday. As Sascha Cordner reports, many different organizations rallied together to “Awake the State” and touch on areas that they believe the current Government is lacking.

Several Florida A and M University students chanted as they marched up the front steps of the Old Capitol. It was part of their effort to rally a crowd of hundreds of people to get the Awake the State Rally started in Tallahassee.

Many had signs waving throughout the rally like “You can’t Afford to Stay Silent,” Pink Slip Rick,” and “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts.”

Barbara DeVane helped organize the Awake the State rally, and she’s also the State Secretary of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans.

"I am not retired,  but I am sick and tired of Governor Rick Scott and his legislative cronies, who do nothing but pay back the richest one-percent of Floridians and the major corporations that don’t even pay taxes, the lot of them in the state of Florida. We’re sick and tired.”

The Awake the State is a grassroots movement all across the state that sprang out of residents’ anger at the Governor and the Legislature last session. 

Out of the 20 speakers who spoke at the rally was Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho. He claims some members of the Legislature during this past session tried to suppress his voice when he tried to speak before a Senate Committee about the controversial elections bill.

“When the Legislature this year considered a massive 152-page election bill that is loaded with all kinds of Voter Suppression techniques, I went to speak for the Senate Committee, and I was denied. In fact, when there was supposed to be public testimony, Senator Thrasher, who is the former chairman of the Republican party of the state of Florida, walked over to the chairman of the committee, whispered into his ear, and then the chairman announced there would be no public testimony.”

Other speakers also talked about the “bad policies” of the Republican-led Legislature, and a recent Quinnipiac poll shows they’re not alone. Only about 33-percent of Florida voters say they approve of the work the Legislature is doing, while close to 50 percent disapprove.

There weren’t any Republican lawmakers present at the rally, but there was a showing for the Democrats. That included Miami lawmakers, Representative Dwight Bullard and Senator Oscar Braynon. They along with Representative Alan Williams of Tallahassee pleaded to the crowd to come to committee meetings and fight.

“We need you to call your friends, tweet them, get on facebook, get them here! We need your voices. Last year, we saw what happened when we had voices fighting the immigration bill. And, so we need those same voices again. We need that 99-percent to come up here and show that 1-percent that we are not afraid and we will not be intimidated by this bad policy.”

And, FAMU Student Jamaal Rose near the end of the rally had some spirited words for the Governor:

When we think about the Governor’s passage of bills and what they’re trying to do with immigration, it wasn’t fair! When we think about the millions of students who still won’t get funding but he continues to fund corporate America, it’s just not fair! When we think about the people who go to work every single day and at the end of the day, they expect their Medicare, they expect their Medicaid to be there for them, it’s not there, that’s not fair!”

Other organizations included in the Awake the State rally was Occupy Tallahassee, Florida New Majority, the ACLU of Florida and Florida Watch Action. The Tallahassee portion of the Awake the State was just one of about 20 rallies going on all across the state on Tuesday.