May 28, 2022

SIT-IN: Florida Democrats erupt over Republican legislative approval of DeSantis’ gerrymandered maps

SIT-IN: Florida Democrats erupt over Republican legislative approval of DeSantis' gerrymandered maps

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The capitulation of the Republican-controlled state legislature to Ron DeSantis is now complete. The extremely gerrymandered maps proposed by the governor’s office, in an unprecedented move not seen in recent history, were fully approved yesterday in a fast-tracked special session that has shattered any semblance of democratic norms previously observed.

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The map adopted is a dream for Florida Republicans and a nightmare for anyone who cares about a healthy democracy. It potentially adds four new Republican seats to the U.S. House of Representatives while cutting down the number of Black majority districts in the state from four to two. This is all part of DeSantis’ resume building for his potential run for president in 2024, as he will be able to tell Republicans in Congress that he had their back while throwing more red meat to the base.

During the debate over the maps on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives, Democrats were told that they can’t reference the racist history of Black disenfranchisement and Jim Crow racism as a reason to vote no on these maps that severely dilute Black voting power. Republicans threatened to cut the mics of their Democratic colleagues if they broke this censorship rule.

That’s when Democrats had enough.

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In an unprecedented and righteous move, House Democrats led by their Black colleagues staged a sit-in protest in the House Floor, driving the Republicans to leave and delaying their plans to disenfranchise millions of Floridians.

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How did DeSantis and the Republicans react? By replicating tactics used authoritarian regimes to suppress protests, shutting off wifi access in the Capitol building to make it harder for journalists to live stream, and using law enforcement to remove media from the voting chambers. An Associated Press photographer was kicked off the floor by the sergeant-at-arms and had his media pass taken away, and the top security official also kicked out members of the public observing in the gallery and barred others from entering.

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The protest by House Democrats followed the worst and most authoritarian legislative session that Florida has seen in recent history. Attacks on voting rights, immigrants, local government power, unions, reproductive rights, teachers, and LGBTQ folks and workers were all part of the Republican agenda. The special session called to adopt these extremely gerrymandered maps also includes a proposal to retaliate against the Walt Disney Company by ending special privileges the company enjoys after it paused political contributions in the state due to a proposal led by Republicans to restrict discussion of LGBTQ topics in public schools.

Ron DeSantis and his Florida Republican cohorts have now made clear what has always been clear. They only care about power for power’s sake and are willing to trample all over our democratic norms and constitution in the process. It’s up to the courts to reject this unprecedented power grab now.

Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He tweets from@tomaskenn.

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Thomas Kennedy

is a reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.

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