Protest reaches capitol

In an effort to call attention to the 2004 presidential election, state and local leaders joined forces with everyday Floridians Tuesday to march to the old state capitol.

“Today’s purpose was to re-awaken Floridians to concerns about the state of our state and nation that are often times whitewashed in the media,” said Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum. “Today’s effort shows that we are not asleep, but are wide awake, alert and watching what’s happening.”

Rep. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, D-Miami, agreed and said voicing displeasure with Gov. Jeb Bush was part of the greater purpose.

“I believe all of that encompasses the purpose, but I want to make certain that people understand that the greater purpose of all, was to have our governor know that we’re not happy [or] pleased,” he said.

Bendross-Mindingall said the march’s purpose was also to inform Floridians about pertinent social issues, including full funding for education, housing, jobs, and restoring civil rights to ex-felons. Nearly 3,500 people were in attendance.

Gillum said the significance of the day and symbolism in marching could not be overlooked.

“We’ve always marched as a people, and more than anything the march is about communing,” he said. “When we all come together we can strike a more mighty blow.”

Rodney Little, a sophomore business administration student, said being on one accord with other minorities was his rationale for participating in the march.

“I’m here to get a sense of unity, [also] to be part of a central gathering of minorities from all cultures to address central issues and voice our opinions,” said the 20-year-old from Miami.

The march was scheduled to coincide with the opening day of the state legislative session and first day of the Florida Comprehensive Academic Test.

“I believe that [the scheduling of the march] is timely,” Bendross-Mindingall said. “I believe that it will be honored and recognized because of the terrible looking FCAT and maybe we will tweak the listening skills and understanding of what is happening in … to all people, because if it happens to the Africans its going to happen to others.”

Gillum agreed.

“The FCAT was a corner stone of this march’s motivating folks throughout the state,” he said. “We recognize that this week began the testing of FCAT in Florida schools and we wanted to highlight the tremendous issues surrounding this very bias highstakes test.”

The FAMU alumnus said the success of the march came from impacting others to speak up and stand up about the issues.

“It’s about the spirit of the people,” he said. “More than the number, more than anything, it’s the fact that these people came and voiced their concerns,” he said.

“These folks are now equipped with tools, talking points and they will go back and will affect somebody else. Success lies there in.”

After gathering with other march participants, Little’s attention shifted to encouraging voter turnout in November.

“I’m concerned about tuition increasing, but my main focus is making sure everyone gets out and votes,” he said.

Little described the process in the controversial 2000 election as faulty. “Depending on your take, some people will get discouraged, he said. “But it should encourage them to vote.”

contact samuel r. flemmings at