A coalition of progressive organizations marched on Saturday in cities across the state of Florida to shine a light on some of the 200 new laws that went into effect that day. A march in Pinellas County had about 100 in attendance. They aimed to shine light on policies they say attack Floridians’ freedoms just days before Independence Day.
Only a day earlier the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Graphic Designer who refused to serve same-sex couples. But President of the LGBTQ Caucus for the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, Luis Salazar, says the law impacting various marginalized communities is cause for solidarity, not despair.
“I think Justice Sotomayor said it best when, you know, this gives them power to discriminate against a protected community. But this is gonna make us even more united I think, because what you’re seeing is all these organizations, all these communities are finally realizing that we’re all on the same boat. We are all being having our rights taken away, our right to exist away our history is trying to be erased.”
Salazar joined the march in Pinellas County, and said that many of these communities are realizing that not only in the same boat, but they will plan to organize together in upcoming local and presidential elections.
“The slate of hate has united us, right? So we had all these laws in Florida, against immigrants, against LGBTQ against African Americans, against women. You know, seeing all these people united. That’s what they’re scared of, because they know if we unite, they know if we work together, we will vote together and we’re going to vote for change. And that means that I’m no longer being empowered. And by that I mean Republicans that put these put these laws up, and Republicans that are not seeing us are valuing our existence because they see us as something weak, but we’re not weak. We’re strong and we’re even stronger when we stick together.”
Florida For All is a coalition of 6 organizations. Roxey Nelson is with coalition organization SEIU FL, and said the recent law that stopped automatic deductions from some public employee paychecks will hurt the ability to bargain for teachers’ unions.
“They feel attacked by this governor and by this legislature around their right to have to form a union with their co-workers.”
Nelson said her union won’t be affected, but they’re standing in solidarity. One person who has felt directly attacked recently is Dunedin High School social studies teacher Brandt Robinson, who has been working with the Pinellas County Teacher’s Union to push back against criticism by two Pinellas County School Board Members with ties to Moms for Liberty.
He said part of why Black history, LGBTQ rights, and DEI have all been conflated by DeSantis, has much to do with confusion about terminology.
“Those attacks in the form of critical race theory, something that is not taught in a single K through 12 public school in the United States. I’m a white guy with a master’s in African American history, trust me, where you attack diversity, equity and inclusion by now for DeSantis his base and again, with all due respect, the majority of those citizens are grossly uninformed, easy to take advantage of. Now, it’s all been bundled under this collective phrase woke. So they’re not questioning what woke is they can’t explain what it means to them woke means that there are things and people trying to take their America away from them.”
But Robinson stresses that organizing with others is key.
“Now the attacks have been so blistering, the legislative attacks, especially just trying to keep up. But what’s happened is instead of being individual silos, each of these organizations now have found our footing. We’ve studied ourselves, we understand exactly what we’re fighting against. So now we’re taking it to the next step, which is organizing together and collectively because we understand the consequences of the elections next year are dire.”
DeSantis said at a Mom’s for Liberty conference Friday that quote, “We have eliminated ‘DEI’ from our public universities,” Robinson said he wants to encourage anyone dissatisfied with the new laws to educate, organize, and mobilize. For WMNF News, I’m Josh Holton in St. Petersburg.