Capitol protests, like last summer’s 31-day sit-in by the Dream Defenders, are no longer allowed thanks to a rule change that will limit more than just demonstrations.
With little fanfare, Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford approved a proposed rule by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that bans overnight stays at the Capitol and shoos members of the public from the building after 5 p.m. or 30 minutes after an official function.
Members of the public who don’t have a Capitol Access Card, or who aren’t the guests of staff or lawmakers, will be told to leave after those times. That sets up a scenario that sounds problematic for free speech advocates.
“Those invited to stay could stay, but those exercising their First Amendment right would be told to leave,” said Barbara Peterson, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation. “If the building is open to others, why wouldn’t it be open to me? I would argue it would violate the First Amendment.”