Sit-in at Fla. Capitol prompts after hour rule changes

Demonstrators believe state is trying to silence their voice

Published On: Sep 25 2013 04:31:17 PM EDT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

A 31-day sit-in at the Florida Capitol has prompted recommended after hour rule changes. Demonstrators say it's another way the state is trying to silence their voice.

Earlier this summer, the Dream Defenders camped out in the state capitol 24/7 for 31 days. Overtime cost Florida taxpayers more than $172,000.

The state is now changing the rules to make sure that doesn't happen again.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is recommending rules aimed at keeping people out of the Capitol after business hours.

"When the Capitol is closed, we will not allow people in to sleep, to protest, things of that nature," said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

If this does become the new rule, the Capitol's doors will be locked after hours, meaning anyone will be escorted out of the building and possibly arrested.

The Dream Defenders were back in the state capital this week. Even though they aren't staying in the Capitol this time around, they said the recommended changes will silence people's voices.

"The right to peacefully assemble, engage your lawmakers in a public building, public figure, public figures is not being infringed on. It's a core tenant of our constitution of Florida and our country," said Phillip Agnew of the Dream Defenders. "Seems more political than safety."

The state says it's all about safety. FDLE is currently waiting on Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford. The three must approve the rule in writing for the changes to take place.

"They are in the process now of going over the FDLE recommendation, and I hope we hear from them soon," said Bailey.

The new rules would also prohibit groups from preparing food without a permit.

Those authorized in the Capitol will still be allowed access to the building after hours, but a maximum of four guests will only be permitted with the authorized person.