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Florida protests draw comparison to '60s civil rights movement

Protesters storm the Florida capitol building in search of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Jonel Edwards
Dream Defenders w/ Permission
Protesters storm the Florida capitol building in search of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Law enforcement arrested more than a dozen protestors throughout this session.

Since March, the state capital has routinely seen protests from demonstrators including civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton, state government leaders Nikki Fried and Lauren Book, and more.

It comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican lawmaking majority have passed laws on everything from schoolbooks, to abortion, gun control and even how history is taught.

Florida A&M University assistant dean Reginald Ellis says the tension stems from people just simply wanting to be heard.

"You have a black woman who's the second command of the United States for the first time. You had a black man as president. Now, could the founders see that? I doubt it," said Ellis. "Probably in our lifetime, we will have someone that will serve in executive position in the United States that's a part of LGBTI community. So, we will eventually see that. It is going to be a total full representation of everyone in the nation."

"Today’s period of protest"
CJ Staples was among the recent protesters taken into custody after a sit-in in the governor’s office. He says the arrest was traumatic.

"We weren’t given a phone call the entire time we were there," said Staples. "It was cold and the conditions were not the kind of conditions anyone should be subjected to, especially those that are standing up for their constitutional rights. We were all in the same holding cell together, the men and the women.”

Still, Staples says he wanted to send a message to lawmakers.

“Just a lack of transparency, we wanted to highlight that. We wanted to let people know like, no, we came here speak with our governor…not only was he not willing to speak with us, instead of giving us the answers that we deserved. We were arrested, we were essentially ignored.”

"A lot of things need to be changed..."
Much like now, protesters decades ago participated in boycotts, sit-ins, and marches, featuring people of all ages. Dessi Andrews was 17-years-old when he marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King and C.K. Steele down Monroe Street in Tallahassee towards the old capitol building.

He says the fight on race and fair treatment between people is just as important now as it was back in 1964.

“Even though we can sit where we want to, we can go in the restaurant where we want, there are still some things as far as I’m concerned that need to change," said Andrews. "A lot of things need to be changed in order to make things equal and treatment equal.”

Adrian Andrews is a multimedia journalist with WFSU Public Media. He is a Gadsden County native and a first-generation college graduate from Florida A&M University. Adrian is also a military veteran, ending his career as a Florida Army National Guard Non-Comissioned Officer.

Adrian has experience in print writing, digital content creation, documentary, and film production. He has spent the last four years on the staff of several award-winning publications such as The Famuan, Gadsden County News Corp, and Cumulus Media before joining the WFSU news team.