by Mitch Perry
They were called "Moral Mondays," and a coalition of progressive groups in Florida announced today that they intend to hold such events in Tallahassee this year, beginning on the eve of this year's regular legislative session, next Monday, March 3.
"This is an election year, and we want to make sure our views are clearly heard by this year's legislative body as well as the Governor," said Adora Obi Nweze, head of the Florida NAACP. "And that we bring as many Floridians as possible ... so as we begin to speak with one voice." She said the drive was for voter education, voter registration and getting people out to vote.
Obi Nweze said the fact that the state has never been in a situation where the Legislature rejected $51 billion from the federal government is cause enough to revolt (that's the total of money the feds would provide Florida over the next decade if the Legislature agrees to expand Medicaid services).
"Your silence on Medicaid is deadly," added Tobias Packer, Senior Communications Coordinator with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Florida on a conference call with reporters on Monday.
Other groups involved in the conference call included members of the SEIU, Mi Familia Vota and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Obi Nweze said the groups would be grading Governor Rick Scott on a variety of issues, including any and all civil rights bills that may be filed this session. The restoration of voting rights for ex-felons and the purging of "non-citizens" from the voting rolls are also issues on the minds of the activists.
"The Florida legislative body doesn't reason with us," said the Reverend R.L. Gundy from the Florida Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "When a government is unreasonable, the Constitution of the United States says it is the right of the people to rise up and overthrow that law that they have established."
Throwing a little more gasoline on his rhetorical fire, Reverend Gundy went on to call Florida the last "Birmingham" of the South. "The government does not respect us. The legislative body neglects us," he continued, saying that it may be time to put "boots on the ground," which might mean going after the economic system in the state, though he did not specify how that might happen.
Gundy concluded by saying if people don't pay close enough attention to how the state legislative districts are drawn up, "we may have another apartheid system" in Florida.
Pastor Darien Bolden from the President Baptist Leadership Conference in Jacksonville said there are many issues of racism still plaguing the state and his city, referring specifically to how Republican Party of Duval County Chairman Rick Hartley recently called Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown “thuggish.” Brown is black.
Mallory Garner-Wells, Public Policy Director for Equality Florida, said two bills that her organization wants to see passed this legislative session would be a statewide domestic partnership bill and a non-discrimination law banning the ability to fire LGBT members because of their sexual orientation.
In addition to Florida, progressive groups in both South Carolina and Georgia have also indicated that they will take up North Carolina's lead and also host "Moral Mondays" as well this year.
Officials on the conference call today did not indicate how many "Moral Mondays" will actually be held in Tallahassee, but it does not appear as though they will occur on a weekly basis, as was the case in North Carolina.