By Pat Bryant*
Six University of Florida students at two colleges have been arrested on multiple charges for protesting Florida’s draconian laws that are the tip of rising fascism in the United States . The arrests, in a few days of each other, were made first at University of South Florida at the university’s administration building where President Rhea Law’s office is located. Placards were carried and demands on flyers that called on Governor Ron DeSantis to stop his repressive regime news and encouragement he is spreading nationwide.
Police swopped in without warning grabbing students and making arrests caught on video. Asked about police violence, and arrests of students, Governor DeSantis’ press secretary has not responded. Students have since protested the arrests and demanded that Police Chief Chris Daniel be fired. Daniel is seen in the video pushing a female student in the back and twisting her arm.
The arrests were happening as Governor DeSantis traveled across the nation claiming that people are freer in Florida than elsewhere in the United States. DeSantis rallies against “wokeness” or a worldview that racial and sexual disparities are the result of racism, sexism, and class exploitation. And DeSantis wants no program to correct longstanding inequities that result from slavery, racism, and sexual discrimination.
On March 6, a few dozen students protested DeSantis’ attacks on affirmative action, black history, diversity programs and the lack of well-being of black students on the Tampa campus. They rallied outside the Marshall student Center, heard speeches, and marched to the Patel administration building. Inside the building police began grabbing students without notice as speakers spoke on demands.
Several videos of the arrest support the student’s version of being attacked by police.
DeSantis drew CNN headlines that day, not about crackdown on student rights to redress demands to the government protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, but CNN said of DeSantis “he is willing to go much further than any other Republican leader to turn his state into a conservative vision.”
That’s an opposite vision of the Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). “We are focused on creating an environment where black students could succeed without worry of financial or lack of resources and feel safe”, one student wrote adding demands for increase in Black faculty, increase Black mental health counselors, and demilitarize campus, more and greater scholarships for black students, and greater black high school recruitment.
DeSantis about the same time issued an executive order 19-10 ending all diversity and inclusion programs at state universities and setting forth hiring, promotion, recruiting only on competitive basis.
Four days later two University of Florida at Gainesville students were arrested by campus police for leading a demonstration and charged with felonies. Bryan Taylor was arrested for aggravated assault on an officer and resisting an officer with violence. Ian Dinkla was charged with robbery by sudden snatching and resisting with violence. The students and observers denied the violence claims.
The university followed up accusing students of violence against police saying, “everyone regardless of their views—can exercise their First Amendment rights on this campus, and nobody has a right to violence,” said a spokesman. He continued “violent behavior and resisting arrest are unacceptable” he said. The arrest came after a presentation by anti-abortion group “Created Equal” a traveling campus organizing tour. The group set up large signs of abortion fetuses. Police claims Dinkla took one of the signs they claim is worth $120. Felony response to a childish prank.
Protecting freedoms and right to protest is not what is happening in Florida. Since DeSantis election Florida has moved quickly toward totalitarianism, where one man has all power. DeSantis has made 140 executive orders like the one banning diversity 140. DeSantis’ executive orders are more than all other governors in other states combined. Florida is the tip of rising fascism in the United States.
A solid Republican majority in the legislature is set to pass a law that will make abortion illegal after 6 weeks. Another would ban courses and curricula in Florida colleges that teach ethnic, women’s studies, gender studies or courses “based on unproven, theoretical or exploratory content”, and another would allow permit less carry of concealed firearms. Another would require bloggers to register with the state. The Florida legislature is poised to pass them all.
Two camps seem to be forming in Florida. One that holds state power, and another shocked and awed by DeSantis’ and Republican performances. The show will soon be brought everyplace in America.
A new Ipsos poll suggests that DeSantis rallying on “wokeness” may backfire. The poll suggests that 56 percent of Americans and 39 percent of Republicans agree of “wokeness” as positive.
*Pat Bryant is a journalist covering the South