March for our Futures protest pushes back against recent Florida legislation
SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) – A stream of protesters marched through downtown Sarasota hoisting signs and chanting “This is what democracy looks like!”
The March for our Futures rally, organized by Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida, pushes back against a series of recent Florida pieces of legislation dealing with abortion, education and immigration.
Specifically, the organizers are targeting four bills:
HB 5 – Prevents abortions after a fetus has reached 15 weeks. It does not include exceptions for rape, human trafficking or incest; However, it allows the procedure if the mother can be killed or seriously injured during the pregnancy.
HB 1557 – Prohibits classroom discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity for students between kindergarten and 3rd grade. It also requires school districts to notify parents if the school makes changes in how they treat a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health.
HB 7 – Prevents schools or workplaces from teaching any curriculum that would cause an employee or student to believe that a person’s moral character is based on their race, color, national origin, or sex.
HB 1355 – If passed, it will prevent companies from entering into contracts with Florida if they transport undocumented immigrants into the state. The bill would also require counties to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to assist in immigration enforcement.
ABC7 spoke with the main organizers of the march as well as a spokesperson for the Sarasota Republican Club to get all their thoughts on the legislation.
We asked protest organizers about the 15-week abortion ban and they told us they were against abortion restrictions, especially this law as it makes no exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking.
Sarah Parker, one of the co-founders of Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida, also noted that she thinks this will particularly affect minority communities.
“Black and brown women in particular – and people in particular have always been on the back burner of the reproductive freedom movement and were here to make sure they’re up front and their voices are loud and clear,” Parker said. .
However, Rod Thomson, spokesman for the Sarasota Republican Party, said he was glad the bill had passed into law. He pointed to research which indicates that a fetus is considered alive by the time it reaches 15 weeks, because at that time it has heartbeats and brainwaves.
“So the question is is it a human being or not?” he said. “The obvious answer is yes. So that’s a good bill.
As for the Parental Rights in Education Bill (HB 1557), Kate Danehy-Samitz, another co-founder of Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida, is disappointed that it has been signed into law.
It is his belief that the law discourages diversity and will marginalize LGBTQ students. She and Parker say they’re concerned Sarasota teachers won’t be able to openly express their support for LGBTQ students because this law will open up opportunities for parents to fight back.
“People are afraid of things they don’t understand,” Danehy-Samitz said. “A true leader would take this opportunity to bridge the gap to represent those affected by a bill like this and to stand up for them.”
Thomson says otherwise.
He said the text of the bill does not outright prevent discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity, but it will keep these topics out of the school curriculum. For him, it makes sense because he thinks there shouldn’t be a sexualized curriculum for young students.
“No sane, decent person should want teachers secretly behind parents’ backs to talk about transgender and same-sex attraction for six-year-olds,” Thomson said.
Rally organizers who oppose HB 7 also explained their concerns about the law. They say they fear this restriction in schools will cause teachers to ignore some of the darkest chapters in American history regarding race and oppression.
“What we’re doing is we’re burying the story for feelings and those feelings are the only thing that’s going to move things forward,” Danehy-Samitz said.
Thomson, however, insists the bill won’t sanitize the history lessons. Instead, he said it ensured that children would not feel burdened by the actions of their ancestors.
“So what you’re not going to be allowed to do is say if you’re a white kid you’re the problem, you should feel guilty, your ancestors destroyed things and you need to shut up and listen to other people of color,” he said.
Finally, walkers are troubled by HB 1355 because they believe it discourages immigration, central to the creation of the United States.
“I believe we should keep these principles that America is open to everyone, especially children from war-torn countries,” Parker said.
The other side of the aisle insists the bill only pushes back undocumented immigration and does not affect those who enter legally.
“But this idea of just opening the southern border and opening it wide created a human trafficking problem,” Thomson said.
Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida leaders say they plan to keep protests like the March for Our Future going. They could not share details at this time, but they say they plan to raise their concerns about these bills in Washington, DC as well as Tallahassee.
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