A group of activists converged on Tallahassee on Monday to share far-reaching ideals including but not limited to abolishing capitalism, dismantling U.S. and Israeli intervention in Palestine, and giving southwest U.S. land to Mexico.
The rally cries came on the first floor of the state Capitol, and while most seemed unrealistic — at least in terms of immediacy — the group also called for restoring rights to felons, a proposed change to the state Constitution primed for a November vote. It will appear on the ballot as Amendment 4.
The small group of speakers belonged to the Poor People’s Campaign, a nationwide movement first started by Martin Luther King, Jr., and revitalized earlier in 2018 in Florida. The group’s website contains a short manifesto charging prevalence of systemic racism, among other things.
Topics discussed at the rally were wide-ranging; one spoke of the harms of Islamophobia, one criticized western ideologies for preventing national liberation, and a few likened capitalism to white supremacy. Each rallier had signs with scattered messages, too. One read, “Starving a child is violence,” and two followed a different theme: “Systemic poverty is immoral” and “Systemic racism is immoral.”
While each party varied in their woes, all seemed to agree that there is intersectionality in the oppressions they charge — that’s why so many issues were voiced in one sitting.
Even so, through all the noise was very apparent support for the restoration of felon voting rights. Behind the podium was a cardboard jailhouse display with the words “New Jim Crow Jailhouse” on it and costumed inmates — all minorities — linked together with tinfoil chains.
Rev. Ron Rawls, pastor of St. Paul AME Church in Lincolnville, delivered a passionate closing at the rally. He mostly spoke on the need to restore voting rights to felons.
“Political leaders in the state of Florida are using cruel, deceptive tactics in an immoral, misguided attempt to suppress voters from having full strength to choose who will represent them at legislative levels,” Rawls said. “We have to fight back against policymakers by voting yes on Amendment 4.”
Rawls cited the federal government’s hardline response to the crack/cocaine epidemic, which he suggested led to the mass incarceration of minorities. He drew a strong contrast between that and the nation’s newest drug issue.
“Now that opioids are destroying communities, treatment is the designed term and phrase and approach to drug addiction. This approach is actually a good approach — but once again the system finds a way to dehumanize certain groups of people.”
If Amendment 4 receives 60 percent voter approval from Floridians in November, a change to the Constitution will automatically restore voting rights to felons, the exceptions being sexual offenders and murders.