Stalemate In Governor's Office Protest Puts Extra Costs On Taxpayers

Jul 23, 2013

Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters meets with activist group Dream Defenders in the lobby of the governor's office.
Credit R.Benk / WFSU-News

Governor Rick Scott has repeatedly said he has no intention of calling a special session to address Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, despite a week of protesters camping out in the governor’s office. The governor Monday sent Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters to meet with demonstrators.

Protesters, mostly made up of members of the activist group Dream Defenders, told the state’s head of juvenile justice they question zero tolerance statutes and worry the secretary isn’t working hard enough to protect minority youth. Walters said she’s trying to implement a civil citation program where, instead of jailing first-time offenders, tickets are issued.

“I fought for civil citation in Miami Dade County. In Miami Dade County it is across all departments. It is almost every first time offender,” Walters mentioned.

But, Dream Defender Ciara Taylor says that type of program should be implemented statewide.

“There are sixty-six other counties besides Miami Dade. Like there- it has to be implemented statewide. Like that’s beautiful that you’ve done that in Miami, but what about Leon? What about Duval?” Taylor said.

Activists also took the opportunity to demand Walters prevail upon Governor Scott to call a special session. But Walters says she doesn’t have that kind of power. So, Dream Defender Director Phillip Agnew asserted that since Scott is standing his ground, the detractors will continue to stand theirs.

“We’re going to continue the dialogue, continue to apply pressure, continue to show our power and this is not the only place to do that right? It’s local and we intend to start doing that today across the state. So, you know I already heard what he said but governors, politicians always have room to backtrack,” Agnew said.

Because of the stalemate, activists say they’re not leaving the Capitol any time soon. But, their extended stay is starting to add up. Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger pointed out that because of the round-the-clock protests; there are more officers on duty.

“For security reasons we don’t reveal the number of officers that are utilized but while they’re protests going on at the Capitol, our Capitol Police force is about double in the amount of officers that we would normally put on a shift,” Plessigner said.

Plessinger also said in addition to the extra officers needed to secure the Capitol, they’re also working longer hours, with many of them earning overtime pay.

“We are paying, or will be paying overtime because of the protests. And yes officers are working longer hours to make sure we have proper coverage,” Plessinger commented.

But, not everyone at the Capitol is worried about the cost of the protests. Tallahassee Democratic State Representative Alan Williams said it’s the price of justice.

“What’s the cost of life worth? And when you have young folks like Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin who died, what’s the value on their life? These folks that are sitting in the governor’s office right now, they are tax paying citizens of the state of Florida,” Williams retorted.

For now the protesters are still welcome to stay in the Capitol. But, FDLE’s Gretl Plessinger said the cost to taxpayers continues to mount.