Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman and Senate Minority Leader Arrested While Protesting State’s Six-Week Abortion Ban

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried and Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book were among nearly a dozen protestors arrested in Tallahassee on April 3, 2023, while protesting the state's six-week abortion ban. The ban, known as Senate Bill 300, prohibits abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, down from 15 weeks, and before many people even know they are pregnant.[0] Fried and Book were among 11 people arrested at Tallahassee City Hall after protesting the state Senate's earlier decision to pass the ban. The party confirmed in a social media post that the pair had been arrested “for peacefully protesting an effective ban on abortions in Florida.”[1]

On the day when the Florida Senate passed a bill prohibiting abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, a protest occurred. The City of Tallahassee Police Department posted on Facebook that they had been working with protest organizers for over a week, but due to the size of the crowd they were expecting and their desire for overnight camping, they were informed last Friday of the City's inability to accommodate them. Upon the group's arrival at City Hall, they were allowed to use the property during normal operating hours.[2] After multiple warnings throughout the day, protesters acknowledged they understood that anyone refusing to leave the premises at sundown would be subject to arrest.[3]

Based on records from the Leon County court, Fried and Book have been apprehended for committing a misdemeanor offense of trespassing on a property after being warned.[4] According to court records, they were both released on their own recognizance at approximately 11:15 p.m.[4] Fried, who is Jewish, previously served as Florida's commissioner of agriculture, a rare Democrat elected to statewide office in Florida.[5] In the previous year, her attempt to secure the Democratic nomination for governor was unsuccessful.[5] Earlier this year, she assumed the role of chair of the state's Democratic Party.[5] Book, on the other hand, is a Democrat representing Broward County in the Florida Senate.

The incident sparked outrage on social media, with many criticizing the arrest of peaceful protestors advocating for abortion rights. According to Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat from Orlando, Florida has become a place where freedom is no longer valued. Additionally, Florida Planned Parenthood Action has encouraged individuals to express their disappointment to Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey regarding the detainment of peaceful demonstrators.[6] The City had been working with protest organizers for over a week, but due to the size of the crowd they were expecting and their desire for overnight camping, they were informed last Friday of the City's inability to accommodate them.

The ban has been controversial, with critics arguing that it violates women's reproductive rights and puts their health in danger. It makes exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, or to save the pregnant person's life.[7] However, two doctors have to agree the abortion was “necessary,” and the patient “must provide a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record, or other court order or documentation proving” they were the victim of rape or incest.[8] Before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs it, the bill must first be approved by the House.[1]

In Tennessee, House GOP lawmakers are trying to expel three Democratic members who led a protest on the state's House floor, according to the Tennessee Lookout, an affiliate of the States Newsroom.[9] The trio, State Representatives Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson, were stripped from their committee assignments, and their membership IDs were shut off.[8] The three were officially filed for expulsion by Republicans on Monday evening.[8] Thursday marks the day for the scheduled vote.[8] If all Republicans comply with the charade, the representatives will probably be ousted, leading to the inaugural expulsion of lawmakers in Tennessee's history, taking into account the power balance.[8]

0. “Lauren Book continues to protest against Florida abortion bill despite arrest” WPLG Local 10, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.local10.com/news/local/2023/04/04/lauren-book-continues-to-protest-against-florida-abortion-bill-despite-arrest

1. “WATCH: Florida Dem Party Chair Among a Dozen Detained at Abortion Ban Protest” The Daily Beast, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/florida-dem-party-chair-and-senate-minority-leader-detained-at-abortion-ban-protest

2. “Fried, Book among protesters arrested outside Tallahassee City Hall” WTXL ABC 27 Tallahassee News, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.wtxl.com/news/local-news/fried-book-among-protestors-arrested-outside-tallahassee-city-hall

3. “Randi Weingarten fact-checked for false claim that DeSantis arrested political opponents” Fox News, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/randi-weingarten-fact-checked-false-claim-desantis-arrested-political-opponents

4. “Leading Florida Democrats Fried, Book arrested during abortion protest in Tallahassee” Miami Herald, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article273945890.html

5. “Jewish chair of Florida Democrats arrested at abortion rights protest” The Jerusalem Post, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.jpost.com/american-politics/article-736433

6. “Lauren Book, Nikki Fried, top Florida Democrats, arrested in abortion protest” Tallahassee Democrat, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/politics/2023/04/03/top-florida-democrats-nikki-fried-lauren-book-handcuffed-during-abortion-protest/70078221007/

7. “Prominent Florida Democrats are arrested during an abortion law protest” WUSF Public Media, 4 Apr. 2023, https://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/politics-issues/2023-04-04/prominent-florida-democrats-are-arrested-during-an-abortion-law-protest

8. “Nikki Fried and Other Top Florida Democrats Arrested in Abortion Rights Protest” The New Republic, 4 Apr. 2023, https://newrepublic.com/post/171585/nikki-fried-top-florida-democrats-arrested-abortion-rights-protest

9. “Abortion rights activists call for trespassing charges to be dropped following Monday arrests” Florida Phoenix, 4 Apr. 2023, https://floridaphoenix.com/2023/04/04/abortion-rights-activists-call-for-trespassing-charges-to-be-dropped-following-monday-arrests

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