Florida Democratic Party chairperson Nikki Fried and Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book were among about a dozen people arrested by Tallahassee police during an abortion rights protest Monday evening.
Protesters, who were demonstrating against a proposed ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, were warned by police if they did not leave a barricaded area that was closed at sunset, they would be subject to arrest, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
Fried and Book were both arrested on a misdemeanor charge of trespassing on property after warning, according to Leon County court records. Both were released on their own recognizance around 11:15 p.m., according to court records.
The other protesters were released later, and all were out of police custody by about 2:15 a.m., according to a tweet from Florida Planned Parenthood Action.
Other lawmakers, including Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, and Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, went to the jail to support their Democratic colleagues, according to a tweet from Florida Planned Parenthood Action.
“Thank you @senpizzo & team for making sure every last protestor was released,” the tweet says.
Book said after attending a news conference at the demonstration, she sat with the advocates. At about sundown, police told them they were trespassing and would have to leave. She said the arrests were peaceful, and nobody resisted.
“It became very very clear very, very quickly this was escalating,” Book said. “But we were committing to sitting alongside these women who were going to give all of themselves to protect a woman’s right to choose.”
Book said she understands that most people’s priorities lie in the daily ins and outs of their home life: paying bills, getting their kids to school, etc. But she said her fear is that after a right is lost, it’s hard to regain, and she said people need to pay attention to the “reality of what exists right now” in Florida regarding abortion access.
Video from Politico reporter Gary Fineout showed police officers handcuffing several people as they sat in a circle singing “Lean on Me.”
A statement from the Tallahassee Police Department said 11 people were arrested for trespass. It did not name those arrested in the statement.
The department said it “supports non-disruptive demonstrations,” saying police had “assisted in ensuring a safe environment for demonstrators from across the state as they peacefully protested Senate Bill 300″ in front of Tallahassee’s City Hall.
“After multiple warnings throughout the day, protestors acknowledged they understood that anyone refusing to leave the premises at sundown would be subject to arrest,” the statement from the police department said. “This evening, after sunset, the majority of the crowd left the property while 11 people refused to leave despite numerous requests. They were subsequently arrested for trespass after warning.”
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Book has been scheduled for a court appearance on April 27, and Fried has been scheduled for one on May 18, according to court records.
In a statement, Laura Goodhue, the executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said her organization stands with the activists who were arrested, and that “every Floridian owes a debt of gratitude to these passionate freedom fighters.”
“Our movement is more unified and, in the aftermath of last night’s arrest of peaceful protestors, more determined than ever,” Goodhue said. “Planned Parenthood has never shied away from a fight, and with leaders like Chair Fried and Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book focused on building the infrastructure to defend reproductive freedom in our state, we aren’t going anywhere.”
Legislation restricting abortions after six weeks of pregnancy was approved in the Senate on Monday. It still must pass out of the House, but is expected to do so.
This is a breaking news story and may be updated.
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