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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and 90.7 WMFE.

Prominent Florida Democrats are arrested during an abortion law protest

Police surround two women in center of photo who are being arrested
Erich Martin
Democratic Party chairwoman Nikki Fried and Senator Lauren Book were arrested with a group of protesters Monday. The group was advocating for access to abortion care.

Two Florida Democratic leaders were arrested Monday with a group of protesters outside city hall. The group was advocating for abortion access after a proposed six-week ban passed in the Senate earlier in the day.

Senate minority leader Lauren Book (D-Plantation) and Florida Democratic party chairwoman Nikki Fried sat in a circle and joined hands with nearly a dozen protestors as police warned if they didn’t leave the area surrounding Tallahassee’s city hall they’d face arrest.

Before the arrest, Book, Fried and others addressed the group. Fried said protests are just one way to fight against restrictive policies. She said voting is another.

“ We are going to hold accountable every single elected official who vote for an all-out, because that’s what this is, abortion ban," Fried said. "That reckoning is going to come in ’24.”

Earlier on the Senate floor, Book said she believes the battle for access to abortion care is just beginning.

"No one is gong to save us but ourselves. So we must stand up and we must unite. We must donate to abortion funds and support clinic escorts and healthcare professionals and we must work to make things different because abortion is healthcare," Book said.

The arrests came after officers warned protesters several times anyone who remained in the area surrounding city hall after sun down would be trespassing. The protest had initially been planned for Kleman Plaza, then last week the city moved the group’s permit to City Hall before revoking their permit last Friday. In a statement the city says that decision was made after learning the group hoped to camp out overnight.

The statement also says the city allowed the group to use the area surrounding city hall during "normal operating hours."

"TPD encourages individuals exercising their First Amendment right of peaceful assembly to do so in accordance with the law. TPD supports non-disruptive demonstrations and works diligently to protect and uphold the rights of citizens every day," the statement said.

The protest followed a vote on the proposed six-week abortion ban in the Senate earlier in the day. After outbursts from the public during the often emotional debate, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo cleared the chamber's public viewing area.

Passidomo directed the Sergeant to clear the gallery as Sen. Alexis Calatayud (R-Miami) seemed to speak in favor of the measure even as she announced she would vote against it. She said her decision is based on the promises she made to her constituents.

“I told them they had my word I would advocate for exceptions for rape, incest and human trafficking. Because of the leadership of Senator Grall and President Passidomo we have that exception. I gave them my word that I would support Florida’s current law of 15 weeks. Because I am a woman of my commitment to my community I will be voting no on this policy," Calatayud said.

The measure bans most abortions after 6 weeks. It includes exemptions in cases of rape and incest up until the 15-week mark. It also allows certain exceptions when the life of the pregnant person is in danger. But Book, said those exceptions will do little to protect women.

“Things will get worse. Women will get sick. Women will be permanently disabled. Women will die. Women will die," Book said.

Book used her time on the Senate floor to offer help to people in the future who under the proposed ban could struggle to get access to the abortion care they may desperately need.

“Please don’t take matters into your own hands. No back alley abortions. Do not put your health and your safety at risk. There are people and funds who will help you. No matter where you live, no matter how desperate of a situation you are in. I promise you are not alone. Call my office," Book said.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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