Police drag Don’t Say Gay protesters out of Ron DeSantis’ office as 14 arrests made

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis pictured with a background of the American flag

A group of 14 activists have been arrested in Florida after occupying governor Ron DeSantis’ office in protest of the expansion of the state’s cruel Don’t Say Gay law.

The protesters were reportedly arrested on Wednesday (3 May) after the demonstration, with social media clips showing activists sitting on the floor of the Republican governor’s office.

The group of activists were from a human rights organisation named the Dream Defenders, which was founded in 2012 after the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

The group occupied DeSantis’ office with the aim to procure a meeting with the governor to “share the impact the legislative session has had on communities”. 

“DeSantis likes to meet with his donors, the people who voted with him, his little pals, but he seems not to want to face the people who don’t actually like him,” a protester told the Tallahassee Democrat

“If he won’t face us, he shouldn’t be the governor.”

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The protesters said their action was not based on a “singular issue”, but was in opposition to several bills signed into law during this legislative session, including an expansion of Don’t Say Gay, restrictions on abortion, and proposed legislation targeting drag shows.

“This is not a singular issue situation, this is the culmination of every repressive piece of legislation that has been passed this session,” said Jamil Davis, Florida state organising manager of Black Voters Matter.

“We need him [DeSantis] to care for the people and not a cultural agenda to win his way to the presidency.”

Dream Defenders added in a press release that members had been arrested along with “allies” from Equality Florida, Florida Rising, and other organisations.

“We are occupying DeSantis’s office to demand that he come face the people of Florida who he is attacking to fuel his presidential aspirations,” CJ Staples, a Dream Defenders organiser who was reportedly arrested, said in a press release.

“We’re also sending a message to the country that politicians that seek to dismantle what’s left of our democracy are not welcome here and will be met with resistance everywhere, and we hope to help develop the organisations necessary to accomplish that.”

On Wednesday (4 May), Florida expanded its Parental Rights in Education law, better known as Don’t Say Gay, which bans “classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity” for pupils up until the eighth grade.

Previously, the ban only covered students up to the third grade. 

In addition, a law passed stating that teachers will only be allowed to use the pronouns on students’ birth certificates, while a separate bill excludes trans people from toilets that align with their gender.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign commented: “Denying transgender people the ability to access the bathroom consistent with their gender identity is part of a pernicious, degrading, and systematic attempt to dehumanize one of our most marginalized communities. 

“Transgender children especially are faced with heightened levels of anxiety, depression, and dysphoria when they are denied the chance to live consistent with their identity. 

“Florida legislators should focus on real issues impacting Floridians instead of where transgender people go to the bathroom.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement told PinkNews in a statement: “On Wednesday night, 14 protestors were arrested for misdemeanour trespass after refusing to leave the Capitol once the building closed.

“They started protesting before 1pm Wednesday. After the building closed around 7pm, Capitol Police gave the protestors several warnings before any arrests were made later that hour.”

The Associated Press reported that the 14 protesters were were booked into the Leon County Jail in Tallahassee, Florida due to them being in the Capitol building outside of closing hours.

Dream Defenders said in a follow-up tweet that all 14 of the protesters have been released from jail. 

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