An information table about efforts to amend a law that imposes life sentences on repeat offenders will no longer be allowed in the Florida Capitol because of a new Department of Management Services rule requiring all "demonstrations" to have a state agency as an official sponsor.
Totalitarianism has begun in Tallahassee.
According to an article in The Palm Beach Post, a group or anyone wanting "to demonstrate" in the Florida Capitol must first get permission from a state agency, but not just any agency. It has to be an agency that aligns with the demonstrator's mission. In other words, the state of Florida, under Gov. Ron DeSantis, is not allowing anyone to protest inside the Capitol against the state's policies.
And this new rule requiring demonstrations to have a state agency as an official sponsor defines "demonstrations" broadly -- as an activity "bringing into public notice any issue or other matter." So even if you just want to set up a table with literature about your opposition to a bill or state law, you can't do it unless you first get permission from a state agency whose mission aligns with the law or bill you wish to demonstrate about.
Effectively, that means only those who support the state government can demonstrate. In other words, YOU CANNOT PROTEST.
If that doesn't violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, what does? The First Amendment prohibits any law "abridging the freedom of speech ... or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." This new Florida policy "abridges" -- curtails -- all three of those rights.
Sure, the state is saying you can demonstrate if you get permission from a state agency whose mission aligns with your demonstration. But all of that long drawn-out convolution of sentence is classic gaslighting -- a lie. Because, apparently, no state agency is going to allow a group to demonstrate against its mission. The one in this story, which ran Saturday, March 4 in The Post, didn't allow a table with information proposing to amend a law affecting its mission.
The Department of Management Services, the agency responsible for the new rule, told Politico in a statement that it is "plainly written and straightforward." That's another lie.
The new rule is vague, confusing and downright backward. Here's a sample: “One material change to the Rule is that events must align with state agency missions and applications must come from an agency sponsor,” read the DMS letter explaining the new rule. “Once a sponsorship has been obtained, the state agency shall submit the required application to DMS on behalf of the requestor.”
The truth is simple: The DeSantis/MAGA Republican government is not allowing non-aligning views to be heard. It is not allowing opposing views to be heard. It is not allowing protests.
The reason it's not allowing protests is because it is totalitarian. And the reason it is lying in the policy is because it is totalitarian. As Rebecca Solnit points out in "Orwell's Roses," her book of essays about George Orwell and his writings, "Authoritarians see truth and fact and history as a rival system they must defeat."
In Florida, they try to defeat it with lies and by not letting any view other than their own be heard. As Solnit says later in the essay "Snow and Ink": "Totalitarianism is impossible without lies." We've seen this already with their ban of College Board's Advanced Placement Black History curriculum in public schools and with their hostile takeover of the board and administration of New College in an attempt to turn this public liberal arts college into a conservative, Christian-based college.
So, let's fight this Tallahassee tyranny by fighting their lies and their attempts to eradicate truth. Spread the truth by sharing this information on Facebook and other social media, and in letters and phone calls to your representatives and friends, and with calls and contributions to the ACLU.
Our democracy depends upon it.