Poor People’s Campaign comes to the Capitol

Florida Chapter Tri-Chair Donna Cotterell is in the middle, Trisha Brown to her right and Isabella Juarez to her left.
Photo Submitted by Chris Johnson. 

The Florida chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign delivered what they described as their “list of demands” for legislators Tuesday afternoon in the form of a pseudo-press conference on the front steps of the Capitol.

The Poor People’s Campaign describes itself as a “national call for moral revival” and hopes to spark change by engaging with lawmakers and other people of great influence to create a “better society” for low-income households.

According to their website, the Florida chapter of the campaign believes state legislators are currently voting on bills that will negatively impact the poor.  Led by tri-chair and lead theomusicologist Donna Cotterell, the organization’s demonstration began around noon and lasted about 30 minutes, complete with a display featuring signs with statements such as “Systemic Poverty is Immoral,” “A Poverty Wage is Violence” and “Somebody’s Hurting and We Won’t Be Silent Anymore.”

“In the United States, 140 million people are poor or low income, now that ain’t right,” proclaimed Cotterell, with fellow members of the campaign echoing “that ain’t right” as she continued speaking.

“Voting rights here today are weaker than they were 50 years ago, that ain’t right. We imprison, detain and/or deport more people than any country in the world, that ain’t right. Right here in Florida, 51 percent of people are living at or below the poverty level. That’s a total of 10.1 million residents. That ain’t right. That includes 61 percent of children, 53 percent of women, 64 percent of people of color and 41 percent (are white). That ain’t right!”

The display, which laid at the feet of the speakers, also featured “wanted” signs for a few members representing  Florida in the Legislature. State Reps. Byron Donalds and Tina Scott Polsky were “wanted” for allowing “physical abuse and sexual assault” and “environmental injustice” in their respective districts, while Sens. Kathleen Passimodo and Kevin J. Rader were called out for allowing “physical abuse and sexual assault” and “families to be locked up and put in cages” in their respective districts.

State Sen. Joe Gruters, who was “wanted” for “introducing racist bill SB 168 in his district to target innocent people across the state,” was the only lawmaker mentioned by name Tuesday afternoon, when campaign member Isabel Rosalynn began to voice her grievances with the language of SB 168.

According to the official website of the Florida Senate, the purpose of SB 168 is to “prohibit sanctuary policies” by “requiring state entities, local governmental entities, and law enforcement agencies to use best efforts to support the enforcement of federal immigration law” and “authorizing a law enforcement agency to transport an alien unlawfully present in the United States under certain circumstances.”

“The bill that is being proposed by Senator Gruters … is being sold as a ban on sanctuary cities. It is being sold as a public safety bill, but it is not about public safety,” claimed Rosalynn. “It is the opposite. It will make Florida less safe. And this language of sanctuary city is also another lie.

“There is no such thing as sanctuary cities. There is nobody who is protected or sheltered in the criminal justice system for committing crimes, but they are trying to make it look like that,” she added.  “They are using racist language to make immigrants appear as dangerous and it is all a lie.”

The Florida Poor People’s Campaign will hold similar events Wednesday at the ICE Processing Center in Miramar and Thursday in Belle Glade.