FDLE gets barrage of calls after protest group says food is denied

Published Jul. 28, 2013

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was inundated with hundreds of phone calls Saturday after a group of protesters outside Gov. Rick Scott's office tweeted that Capitol Police were denying them food and water and urged people to call the agency in protest.

The FDLE denied the allegations and asked the media not to republish the phone numbers put out by the protest group Dream Defenders. FDLE officials said some of those phone numbers are used by law enforcement agencies throughout the state to request Amber Alerts and crime scene or investigative help.

Phillip Agnew, the Dream Defenders leader, said Capitol employees were allowed to bring hot meals to the protesters last weekend. But when a staff member showed up around 2 p.m. Saturday with cold cuts and bread, the police refused the delivery, Agnew said.

Agnew could not provide further details on who had tried to provide the food or why the employee had been turned away.

FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger disagreed with Agnew's account, saying Capitol employees were still allowed to bring food to the protesters this weekend. "We haven't changed anything," Plessinger said. "The rules remain the same."

About 60 protesters, including some children, have stayed in the Capitol over the weekend.

The group began its protest on July 16, three days after neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting death of Travyon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

The Miami-based Dream Defenders say they won't leave until Scott convenes a special session on the Stand Your Ground law and racial profiling — a demand the governor has repeatedly refused.

On Saturday afternoon, the group took to Twitter to alert its 8,200 followers that they couldn't get food. "FDLE (capitol police) won't allow meals to come in for us to eat!," @Dreamdefenders tweeted at 3 p.m.

An hour later, they tweeted: "One of the female officers told us that if we're hungry that we can leave."

Responses to the alert were swift, coming in from across America.

"The @Dreamdefenders need our solidarity!," music producer Russell Simmons posted on Twitter along with an FDLE phone number.

On Saturday morning, FDLE released a memo estimating the overtime costs for Capitol Police since the sit-in began as $57,971.