Government protests in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and even Wisconsin may have rubbed off on a large number of self-described “fed-up” Floridians.
Thousands gathered at the intersection of Apalachee Parkway and Monroe Streets in downtown Tallahassee Tuesday morning , protesting Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget cuts as the 2011 Legislative Session commenced.
As a part of 31 “Awake the State” rallies in cities throughout the state, hordes of Floridians stormed the capital city calling for lawmakers to carefully consider the laws and mandates put before them during this year’s session.
The grassroots collaboration between Progress Florida, Florida Watch Action and America Votes began as a Facebook group and quickly saw the organization of 31 concurrent protests against budget cuts affecting public sector workers.
Tallahassee’s Awake the State rally began at 10:30 a.m. at the Leon County Courthouse with hundreds of protesters, young and old listening to rhetoric from a number of community leaders from around the state.
“The name of rally is Awake the State: and that’s the point,” said Rich Templin, legislative and political director of the Florida AFL-CIO, who spoke to the crowd in front of the courthouse.
“We have to let people know that Gov. Rick Scott and his administration are working at ‘break-neck’ speed in their full-frontal assault on the working class, all in the name of big corporations in Florida.”
Todd Byars of Florida Teachers for Education, setup an exhibit graphically demonstrating the how cuts to education would affect the state’s education system.
“Scott’s budget is making cuts to education and other services for children and then reallocating the money back into his office,” Byars said.
“These are eight ideas proving that all the things they are working on across the street at the capitol are bogus.”
Those rallying for the public sector weren‘t the only ones afoot at the busy downtown intersection.
Stephanie Kunkel, executive director of Florid a Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, called for the reinstatement of federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and the ouster of 17 bills she said would eliminate access to reproductive healthcare and all family-planning funding in the state budget.
“We think that’s wrong!” Kunkel bellowed into the microphone at the crowd at the courthouse, which had spilled over into the Capitol Complex across the street.
“This legislature should be focused on creating jobs, not wasting time on divisive social issues,” said Kunkel.
By noon, another full-fledged rally convened at the capitol complex: but this crowd was full of Tea-Party members and sympathizers who came in support of Scott and other Republican lawmakers.
To their surprise, Scott later emerged from the capital to gladden his supporters.
“You guys don’t have pensions you don’t have to pay for. Neither should anybody else in this state,” said Scott, standing on a podium in front of the Old Capitol, where other lawmakers and Tea-Partiers would speak throughout the day.
“We’re going to make sure we’re going to have the state for business if we pass the jobs budget. Jobs are going to come back. “
The Famuan reported on Jan. 31 of the possible disagreement Scott would face with the majority Republican legislature.
Senate President Mike Haridopolis addressed this issue in front of the capital.
“We stand unified of on the basic issues,” Hairidopolis told the crowd of the legislature’s agenda.
“First, a balanced budget, second, no new taxes, and third, pension reform.”
“At the end of the day the ideology of Rick Scott is that of the leaders of the House and Senate: this idea that tax cuts for the wealthy will create jobs for working people,” Templin said.
“The definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over’.”
An evening rally for Awake the State was held at 5 p.m. for state workers in Kleman Plaza, just south of the capitol complex. By law in Florida, public sector workers are prohibited from protesting during work hours.