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Red Cross Ceremony interrupted by protest

Sascha Cordner

The American Red Cross celebrated the kickoff of Red Cross Month at the Capitol Thursday with the support of Governor Rick Scott. But, as Sascha Cordner reports, the celebration later met an unexpected interruption from people participating in the “Rick-Makes-Me-Sick-Campaign.”

On a windy day at the Capitol, Dan Samborn declared the start of Red Cross Month:

“Red Cross Month started in 1943 with President Roosevelt first proclaiming March as Red Cross Month, and every sitting President since has honored March as Red Cross Month.”

Samborn is the CEO of the Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross in Tallahassee. He joined Governor Rick Scott in announcing the importance of Red Cross Month. Scott cited the deadly tornadoes that recently left 13 people dead in the Midwest and the South as an example. 

“It was yesterday (Wednesday) we woke up to learn that deadly tornadoes had swept across the Midwest. Homes were destroyed, and I grew up in Kansas City, and we put up with tornadoes all the time, but homes were destroyed, lives were lost. And, so, first our thoughts and prayers with all the families affected. The news is a grim reminder of how important the work of the Red Cross is because the American Red Cross always shows up in a time of disaster.”

Scott added Florida’s own Red Cross is a great benefit to all Floridians:

“So, on behalf of all Floridians, I thank each of you involved in the Red Cross for the work you do, and the work your volunteers do. You provide shelter, food, and emotional support to people when they need it most. When they’re lives have been disrupted by disaster, you are dedicated professionals and volunteers, and ensure that our families and neighbors are ready in case hurricanes and disasters come our way.”

But, only four minutes into the press conference, the Governor and members of the Red Cross were met with a sudden surprise.

“Dan: Philanthropy is tight right now. You got to be honest there..."

What you’re hearing is fake coughing coming from a group called Organize Now, whose members marched onto the Capitol Courtyard as part of their “Rick-Makes-Me-Sick-Campaign.”

At seeing the group, Governor Scott left in the middle of the press conference, but the protestors, dressed in hospital masks, carried on:

“Anyone need some tissue after Governor Rick Scott? We don’t want to get anyone sick!”

Members of the group, Organize Now, say Governor Scott and the Legislature are making Florida residents sick by denying them access to affordable health care because they don’t want to take federal money:

“We’re demonstrating that there is a contagious outbreak here in Tallahassee and it’s Rick Scott. And, it’s Rick Scott and his mission to keep health care reform from the residents of Florida, which is literally translated to more and more Floridians being sick.”

Sheena Rolle, the group’s program director, says Floridians can benefit from affordable health care.

Rudy Roberts, one of the group’s members, is homeless and has health problems, but has been able to get help from his friends to pay for medication he gets from an Orlando clinic. Roberts says the state can do more to help, but he says concerned residents’ cries for help are going ignored:

“The Governor proved once again today he doesn’t even want to meet with us. He walked away today from his conference that he just had here. And, it just proves to me that Governor Scott is just railroading the state of Florida. He does not listen to the citizens of this state, and he’s totally ignore us. I would like them to take that money so that people with pre-existing medical conditions can get affordable insurance.”

Governor Rick Scott is a longtime foe of the Obama administration’s health care overhaul, mockingly calling the plan “ObamaCare.” The Republican-controlled Legislature has also been reluctant to utilize federal funding. Florida continues to lead several other states in a court challenge against the Affordable Care Act.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.