Legislators prohibit protesting at the Florida Capitol

Photo of Dream Defenders Malik Gary taking a stance for voiceless protestors. Photo courtesy: Arriell Drayton

As of February 14, 2023, the Department of Management Services initiated the Florida Administrative Code. The code rules against no protesting inside or outside the Florida Capitol. If anyone is caught protesting within the jurisdiction of the Capitol, they will face trespassing charges.

This rule covers the entire radius of the Capitol complex; the restrictions of the area start at Gaines Street and end at Jefferson Street.

As of March 1, this rule went into effect immediately. It was established a week before the 60-day legislative session, where protestors were planning to attend and advocate against bills they were not in favor of.

Lawmakers suggested the need to draft this rule due to previous disturbances during the session, interference with traffic, and non-peaceful protest.

In previous years, there have been unpeaceful protests, outbursts during legislative sessions, and animosity directed toward lawmakers. This rule was created to enhance safety precautions and to prevent protestors from

An example of this was shown in May of 2022 when legislators took action on the Parental Rights in Education bill. Protestors shouted expletives toward the Desantis administration during a session.

There are guidelines for protesting; lawmakers suggest that protestors ensure not to block access to sidewalks or buildings, engage in profanity, recite false statements, or cause a dangerous disturbance.

Protestors feel that the rule will be utilized as a device to restrict their rights to protest and right to freedom of speech. However, protestors like Jasen Louis, the president of the FSU Black Student Union, suggest ways to continue a peaceful protest to continue expressing their freedom of speech.

“Continue to fight, email politicians somehow, someway utilize social media as avenue or tell reporters how you feel this does not stop you from wanting to make a change,” Louis said.

According to the Constitution of the United States of America, the First Amendment provides that Congress makes no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Dream Defenders Distributor Organizer Malik Gary, who coordinated the Stand for Freedom protest, says no one should be fearful for standing up for what’s right.

“Don’t be afraid to be arrested; it is a valuable part of history,” Gary said. “The Tallahassee boycott was arrested with hot grits thrown on them; they continued to work to ensure everyone had an equal opportunity.”

The first legislative session started March 7 at the Florida Capitol and will continue for the next 60 days until the end of the session. For more information regarding the upcoming legislative sessions, visit the Florida Senate website, www.flsenate.gov.