Protesters criticize Florida's Republican Legislature at an Awake the State rally in St. Petersburg listen05/11/11 Nolan Ruark
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This year there have been rallies in Florida by people upset at policies pushed by the Republican-dominated state Legislature. Twenty-three Awake the State rallies were held across the state yesterday, including one at the office of Representative Jeff Brandes in St. Petersburg.
About sixty people held signs and shouted slogans outside the office of Republican Jeff Brandes on North 4th street. They encouraged drivers to honk their horns as they drove by. This is F. Timothy Martin, one of the original organizers.
"Awake the State started about two months ago, it's a statewide effort, it's a grassroots movement started by people like you and me; started in response to some of the things happening this session. We had a lot of union involvement at first but as you can see this is a pretty diverse group; we have people concerned about the environment, and woman's rights. they're all just really frustrated about what's been coming out of Tallahassee these days."
The demonstrators had issues with a range of policy decisions, from voting rights, to woman’s rights. Marshall Ogletree, executive director of the Pinellas County Teachers Association says Representative Brandes voted against Florida’s teachers.
"Well his record is failing the community at large, teachers, public education, and he voted for many bills that are negative toward the community and towards our schools and towards our employees."
Awake the State started a as a Facebook group and quickly gained support and organized simultaneous protests throughout the state. Representative Brandes’ St. Petersburg office was closed, but the protesters left a report card with failing grades outside his door. Organizer Jason Smith said Awake the State plans to continue protesting across Florida.
"We're here to protest the passage of many draconian bills that strip away voters rights, take away woman's rights, and just the right wing republicans take over of our legislature."
The demonstrators didn’t think that only Brandes was failing them, but Florida’s government as a whole. Doug Hickman said this about the situation in Tallahassee.
"I've been here for 32 years and I've never been ashamed of our state and these draconian laws to do so many negative things like voter suppression. It's terrible, these people didn't get a mandate a lot of people just didn't vote they got in on about one percent of eligible voters I mean its ridiculous what they're doing. We need a change in this state and it's not Scott because Scott ran a company that got the biggest fine ever in the history of the united states. I think it was a billion and a half dollars for stealing all the money from medicare; this is not a man we should have in there. I've met people here today with voters remorse."
Brandes says if he were to have a discussion with the demonstrators, the two sides would find some common ground.
"There's only so much I can do; the bills have already been passed, the bills have already gone through and I'm not able to work on their issues as adamantly as I could before session ended. So hopefully next year I'll get more emails and more phone calls from people to express their concerns more people to visit me in Tallahassee for more people to schedule meetings with me at my district office in St. Pete but I look forward to their comments and concerns can be rectified by just sitting down in discussion because I think there's a lot of misinformation out there."