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Occupy protestors not allowed to occupy Florida Senate visitors gallery

OccupyA group of about 50 Occupy Florida protestors from around the state were denied entry to the Florida Senate Tuesday afternoon as the chamber took up its first series of bills on the opening day of the session.

The reason, said Senate Sergeant at Arms Donald Severance: the group had been disruptive earlier in the day before the governor's State of the State speech and he didn't want to risk a disturbance.

"They were singing and chanting on the fourth floor and we talked to them earlier and asked them to keep it quiet,'' said Severance, whose job is to maintain decorum in and around the 40-member chamber. "Then they'd start back up again. I wasn't going to take a chance of them having a disruption."

A volunteer attorney from the ACLU, Richard Benham, arrived later in the afternoon to consult with the group and meet with Severance. He said it appeared the sergeant arbitrarily excluded some people but allowed others into the chamber. "People certainly have a right to access public property. People have a right to be in the Senate chamber generally. I don't know what the extent of the Senate Sergeant at Arms to prevent that is,'' he said.

"I was guilty by association. They judged me by my appearance,'' said Dana Humphrey of Awake the State of New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County. She said that she was admitted to the Senate chambers last year with her college-aged son but, this year, with her hair dyed pink, she believes she was excluded because of her appearance.

"I think it's profiling,'' said Donna Clifton, of Occupy Panama City, who uses a wheelchair and was allowed in the chamber galalery while the college-aged, t-shirt wearing members of her group were not. "I carried an 'Occupy' sign and I very definitely could be identified as with them.''

Several protestors said it appeared the Senate's rules were arbitrary and inconsistent. Many in the afternoon group were not with the protestors in the morning. Several morning protestors said they were never told by the Capitol Police that they were being disruptive.

"I feel like it was unjust,'' said Ralph Wilson of Occupy Tallahassee. "We came this afternoon to watch the Senate and we were denied entry becuase others were a disruption."

Mike Hankins, a student from Orlando, said he came to Tallahassee expected to have a voice. "This is a public building. People should be allowed to see what their government is doing,'' he said.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos said he had not been aware of the dispute but if the protestors had been disruptive he supported keeping them out of the visitors' gallery.

Photo: Lawyer Richard Benham speaks to Occupy Florida protestors after they were denied entry into the Florida Senate visitors gallery on Tuesday.


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Grow Up

Having a voice and being disruptive are two different things... these occupy folks need to go back to elementary school and learn.

Session is not a time to be heard from the public. Even in committee meetings, there is an orderly manner in which to be heard.

Good for Donald!


Thank you Sgt! I was in the elevator with pink hair lady and they were plotting!

Please do not let FL become Wisconsin!

Sexy Liberal

So what if they were singing in the hallway, that in itself doesn't determine how they MIGHT act once inside. And it most certainly does not justify obstruction of their right to assembly as guaranteed by the Florida Constitution!

Jesse Painter

Florida, you need to get over yourself.
Please do not assume these people are stupid.
REMEMBER : Florida is in favor for Newt Gingrich in the polls..
That makes all Floridians look like JackAsses.
Grow up Florida..

Ted King

Hold on a second, my fascist friends.
You throw people out if they cause a disturbance. You do not arbitrarily let in those wearing Brooks Brothers suits while barring those in jeans.
It wasn't so many years back that rightwing hero Herman Cain would have been excluded or exiled to a "colored only" section of the Florida Senate.
Quit profiling people and quit denying them civil liberties based on what you think they might do. Rightwing nuts do not realize that eroding one person's civil liberies is eroding all our civil liberties.

Michael Adcock

How were they able to do what they did in Wisconsin and Occupy not be able to protest in the state house in Tallahassee? I'm just curious.


You can't believe everything you see online. I was there for opening day of session and it certainly was a disruption. You have the right to free assembly but that right is not in the Chambers of the Legislature, wish reporters/occupiers would actually know the law and where the "right to assembly" can take place. This volunteer "lawyer" is probably out of a job because he should know this law. This shouldn't have even been reported but yet it is because journalists need to sell publications. Mike, Wisconsin is under different laws in their state, Florida has their own constitution.


so because each state is a so to speak "soveriegn entity" people are arbitraly denied their rights??? Tin soldiers and Nixon 'comin =========


Wow ! The Occupiers from all over Florida were peaceful . We had a right to be in the capital building and in the gallery. We were
not disruptive. Had we been we would
have been asked to leave, which never
occured. We want our voices heard.
If you think "pink hair" was plotting something you should have reported it
to the capital police. It sounds like
you are the one who is un-American
allowing a plot to go unreported
endangering everyone in the building.
We are you. We are Occupy. We are the 99 %

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