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Republicans call Florida Democrats’ protest an ‘insurrection’

House Speaker Chris Sprowls said the Democratic members “decided to hijack the legislative process.”
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando (blue suit, in back) yells his objection as Republicans in the House of Representatives applaud after Senate Bill 4C Independent Special Districts, which affects Disney, passes Thursday, April 21, 2022 at the Capitol in Tallahassee.
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando (blue suit, in back) yells his objection as Republicans in the House of Representatives applaud after Senate Bill 4C Independent Special Districts, which affects Disney, passes Thursday, April 21, 2022 at the Capitol in Tallahassee. [ PHIL SEARS | AP ]
Published Apr. 21|Updated Apr. 21

As House Democrats shouted them down and held an unprecedented hourlong sit-in in protest of the congressional redistricting map Thursday in the Florida Capitol, House Republicans turned to social media to express their displeasure.

“House Democrats are staging an insurrection on the House floor to obstruct the democratic process. Shameful,” said Rep. Spencer Roach, a Fort Myers Republican, in a tweet.

Rep. Randy Fine tweeted: “I hope the insurrection on the House floor is dealt with. #LockThemUp.”

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican, posted that Florida now needed “a 4/21 committee” and tweeted an image that read: “Marked safe from Democratic protests today.”

And Rep. Alex Andrade, R-Pensacola, posted a photo of the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C., next to a photo of the Democrats protesting and tweeted: “The resemblance is uncanny. @FLHouseDems staging insurrections is apparently cool now?”

Related: Florida Democrats stage sit-in on House floor over congressional redistricting map

Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a conservative Republican from Howey-in-the-Hills, said in a text message to the Times/Herald that it was a “silly protest” that “marks a low point in Florida history.”

“Democrats are just mad that Republicans aren’t putting forth a racially gerrymandered map,” he said. “If they don’t stop the protest, they should be arrested and removed from the building.”

An hour after adjourning the session, House Speaker Chris Sprowls said in a statement that the Democratic members “decided to hijack the legislative process, violating House Rules and interfering with the rights of their fellow elected colleagues to debate important legislation before the body.”

He noted that although Democrats had agreed to 75 minutes of debate on the congressional maps and “used the entire time, they did not request any additional time prior to the group’s disruption.”

“After offering multiple opportunities to debate the bills in an orderly way, we carried on and completed our constitutional duty to pass a congressional map,” he wrote. “Ultimately, this group tried to drown out the voices of the other elected Representatives and the 22 million Floridians they represent.”

Roach said the protest interfered with the ability of Republicans to have their voices heard in debate over the maps.

“I represent about 184,000 constituents who elected me to have their voice heard here on the House floor. I didn’t get a chance to do that,” he said.

Democrats disagreed with the characterization of the protest as an insurrection.

“We didn’t break no windows. We didn’t break no doors,” said Rep. Susan Valdés, D-Tampa. “This is what democracy looks like.”

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Roach, however, said Republicans weren’t too worried about the outcome. As Democrats protested, Republicans used the time to have lunch.

“Another unfortunate byproduct is that I probably ate too much cake,” he said.

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