Sen. Shevrin Jones believes Floridians will mount protests in the wake of the 2021 Legislative Session.
The Republican-led Legislature successfully routed Democrats during the Session, which ended last week, passing most of Republicans’ and Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ priorities. Among them was a controversial bill (HB 1) to crack down on violent protests, which the Governor signed into law two weeks ago.
DeSantis announced the anti-riot bill after nationwide protests, some violent, last summer in response to the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer. That officer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of killing Floyd the day after the Governor signed the bill, leading some to question the Governor’s timing.
Republicans passed that bill and others, including stricter election laws (SB 90) and a measure to ban transgender girls and women from girls and women’s sports (SB 1028), in what Jones, a West Park Democrat, called the “most disastrous Legislative Session” in his nine years in the Legislature.
“The people are mad as hell at what happened in Tallahassee this last Legislative Session, and I can guarantee you, I know they put HB 1 out, but I can tell you that there is going to be an uprising of the people to show who’s really in charge,” Jones said.
People will find a way when their paths are blocked, he elaborated, in this case by going outside the processes of government.
“Did they think we’re gonna go through a whole Legislative Session for 60 days and not have a meet up based on all of this stuff that has just happened from attacking trans kids, and then go on to doing what they’re doing when it comes to criminalizing peaceful protesters or demonstrators? Well, I don’t know what their expectation was,” Jones said.
Jones, a veteran of the Legislature, and St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Michele Rayner, a freshman, spoke online Monday during an event with Ron Be Gone, an organization dedicated to defeating DeSantis in 2022. Organizers billed the event as a discussion of the most destructive Session “in a generation.”
“We saw the erosion of our First Amendment rights with HB 1 and people giddy and clapping about being able to restrict folks’ rights to protest in the wake of Black and Brown folks dying and being slaughtered in the streets due to state sanctioned violence,” Rayner said.
The giddiness and clapping continued for “genital inspections of children” and “Jim Crow 2.0,” she told reporters, referring to the transgender bill and the election law revamp.
Republicans have acknowledged their wins across the board. In his speech just before the House adjourned on Friday, House Speaker Chris Sprowls told members that lawmakers had “pretty much emptied out our policy agenda.” This Legislature will hold one more Regular Session beginning in January before the next election.
The majority of Republicans pushed for all those priorities, Jones said, because Democrats don’t hold power in the House or the Senate, where they are outnumbered nearly two to one. Moreover, Jones suggested they passed the election measure because Donald Trump lost his presidential reelection bid in November.
As the campaign begins for the Governor’s Mansion — Democratic Rep. and former Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to announce his bid Tuesday — Rayner highlighted that DeSantis only won in 2018 by around 30,000 votes.
“He’s governing like he has a mandate, but he does not have one,” Rayner said.
Despite the threat of having legislative leadership kill her bills or local budgets, she said not speaking truth to power would be a disservice to her district.
Also on the call was Jasmen Rogers-Shaw, a community organizer and former Democratic Primary challenger to Rep. Anika Omphroy in Broward County. She took on several of Republicans’ bills passed this Session, including the election bill.
“I also want to make it clear that any impediment, any barrier, any obstacle to the ballot box is absolutely and unapologetically White supremacy, and we have to use those words and call it what it is,” Rogers said.
Jones has compared that measure to a bill signed into law in Georgia, calling it “Georgia-lite.”