By Marquelle Ogletree and Nia Ogletree
In the fall of 2019, millions of young people took to the streets in a massive protest to demand urgent action on the climate crisis that’s killing our planet.
We protest because our futures are on the line. It’s our right to stand up when we see leaders aren’t taking serious action. Being able to speak out against injustice and wrong-headed public policy is a bedrock value in this country.
But some Florida leaders – led by Gov. Ron DeSantis – are trying to quash our right to protest. It’s time we push back.
Peggy Quince, a former Florida Supreme Court justice, and Patricia Brigham, president of the Florida League of Women Voters, write that the legislation “at its core would dilute the rights that this country and this state were founded upon.”
“This legislation includes enhanced criminal penalties for offenses already codified by law,” Quince and Brigham write, “Innocent bystanders caught in a protest gone unruly could find themselves arrested and thrown in jail for the night, their bail eliminated before a first court appearance after their arrest. The state could preempt local government authority when law-enforcement budgets are cut, allowing the governor and Cabinet to force local governments to cut other needed local services.”
It is disturbing to watch DeSantis and some members of the Florida Legislature spending time and public money to advance a proposed law that’s unnecessary.
The legislation is part of a coordinated attack on the people’s right to protest. Similar measures have been proposed in other states, pushed by a secretive conservative national group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a so-called “bill mill” that creates business-friendly legislation to hand over to politicians in state legislatures.
Every year ALEC holds a summit where hundreds of state lawmakers from around the country mingle with corporate lobbyists. In closed-door meetings, they craft corporate-friendly “model” legislation and then disseminate it in state Legislatures.
Its funders include the fossil fuel and utility industries that want to stifle environmental activism. In Ohio, oil interests and utilities were among those lobbying in favor of anti-protest legislation, according to the Energy and Policy Institute.
Year after year we watch as powerful polluters work the political system and use campaign cash to get weaker regulations and special favors from politicians. We may not have that same access, but we do have our voices and the Constitutional right to protest injustice, make our opinions known, and work to change a system that’s killing our planet. We will fight this attack on our rights.
Marquelle Ogletree is a University of Florida freshman studying sociology and has a passion for social justice and government policy. She is a GenCLEO youth leader with the CLEO Institute.
Nia Ogletree is a senior in the IB Program at Tallahassee’s James S Rickards High School. She is a GenCLEO youth leader and certified Climate Speaker with the CLEO Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to climate crisis education and advocacy. She plans to pursue a college degree in Environmental Science & Policy.
Marquelle and Nia are working to help pass a Climate Emergency Resolution in Tallahassee.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.