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Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman and Senate Minority Leader Arrested in Protest Against Abortion Ban

On April 3, 2023, the Florida Senate passed a bill that would outlaw abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. In response, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried and Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book were among nearly a dozen protestors arrested in Tallahassee while peacefully protesting against the ban.[0] In a post on social media, the party stated that the duo had been apprehended “for engaging in a peaceful demonstration against a restrictive ban on abortions in Florida.”[1] The bill outlaws abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know they’re pregnant. The bill makes exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, or to save the pregnant person’s life.[2] Nonetheless, in order for an abortion to be deemed “necessary”, it requires consent from two medical professionals, and the patient must furnish a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record, or any other court order or documentation that serves as proof of being a victim of rape or incest.[3]

The Tallahassee Police Department stated that it had been working with protest organizers for a week and were notified last week that they were only allowed to protest during normal work hours “due to the size of the crowd they were expecting and their desire for overnight camping.”[4] According to the police, they had issued several warnings and the protesters had acknowledged that those who refused to vacate the premises by sunset would face arrest.[5] While most protesters dispersed, 11 remained, including Friend and Book, and were subsequently arrested for trespass after a warning.[1]

Fried, who is Jewish, previously served as Florida’s commissioner of agriculture and mounted an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor last year.[6] Earlier this year, she assumed the position of the chair of the state's Democratic Party.[6] Book, on the other hand, is Florida's Senate Minority Leader.

After the arrest, Florida Democrats tweeted a photo of Fried being arrested, writing “Florida Democrats will not back down in our defense of abortion rights. Our Chair made that clear tonight.”[7] In a tweet, Representative Anna Eskamani from Orlando who belongs to the Democratic Party, stated that Florida has become a place where freedom perishes. Florida Planned Parenthood Action also urged the public to voice their disgust towards the apprehension of nonviolent protestors to Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey.[8]

The incident came on the same day that the Tennessee Lookout reported that House GOP lawmakers are trying to expel three Democratic members who led a protest on the state’s House floor.[9] The Tennessee Democrats were stripped from their committee assignments, and their membership IDs were shut off.[3] The three were officially filed resolutions to be expelled by Republicans on Monday evening.[3] Thursday is when the vote is scheduled to take place.[3] If all Republicans comply with the charade, the representatives are expected to be expelled, making it the first time in Tennessee's history that lawmakers are removed on partisan grounds due to the power balance.[3]

This incident also came just days after the Nashville shooting, where Florida Governor Ron DeSantis quietly signed a bill to allow people to carry concealed loaded guns without any permits, training, or background checks.[10]

The incident has put Florida’s mugshot exemption law in the spotlight, which has been redacted by the state after Fried and Book’s arrest. Book and Fried were both arrested on a misdemeanor charge of trespassing on property after warning, according to Leon County court records.[11] According to court records, they were both released on their own recognizance at approximately 11:15 p.m.[11]

0. “Nikki Fried, Lauren Book among 11 arrested at abortion protest” NBC2 News, 4 Apr. 2023, https://nbc-2.com/news/state/2023/04/04/nikki-fried-lauren-book-among-11-arrested-at-abortion-protest/

1. “WATCH: Florida Dem Party Chair Among a Dozen Detained at Abortion Ban Protest” The Daily Beast, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/florida-dem-party-chair-and-senate-minority-leader-detained-at-abortion-ban-protest

2. “Prominent Florida Democrats are arrested during an abortion law protest” WUSF Public Media, 4 Apr. 2023, https://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/politics-issues/2023-04-04/prominent-florida-democrats-are-arrested-during-an-abortion-law-protest

3. “Nikki Fried and Other Top Florida Democrats Arrested in Abortion Rights Protest” The New Republic, 4 Apr. 2023, https://newrepublic.com/post/171585/nikki-fried-top-florida-democrats-arrested-abortion-rights-protest

4. “Nikki Fried, Lauren Book among nearly a dozen arrested while protesting abortion ban” WCTV, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.wctv.tv/2023/04/04/nikki-fried-lauren-book-among-group-arrested-tallahassee-city-hall/

5. “Randi Weingarten fact-checked for false claim that DeSantis arrested political opponents” Fox News, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/randi-weingarten-fact-checked-false-claim-desantis-arrested-political-opponents

6. “Jewish chair of Florida Democrats arrested at abortion rights protest” The Jerusalem Post, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.jpost.com/american-politics/article-736433

7. “Jewish chair of Florida Dems arrested at abortion rights protest – J.” The Jewish News of Northern California, 4 Apr. 2023, https://jweekly.com/2023/04/04/jewish-chair-of-floridas-democratic-party-arrested-at-abortion-rights-protest

8. “Lauren Book, Nikki Fried, top Florida Democrats, arrested in abortion protest” Tallahassee Democrat, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/politics/2023/04/03/top-florida-democrats-nikki-fried-lauren-book-handcuffed-during-abortion-protest/70078221007/

9. “Abortion rights activists call for trespassing charges to be dropped following Monday arrests” Florida Phoenix, 4 Apr. 2023, https://floridaphoenix.com/2023/04/04/abortion-rights-activists-call-for-trespassing-charges-to-be-dropped-following-monday-arrests

10. “Nikki Fried, Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book among those arrested during abortion ban protest” WFTV Orlando, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.wftv.com/news/local/nikki-fried-senate-minority-leader-lauren-book-among-those-arrested-during-abortion-ban-protest/YHKXIVPVLFCKXCGHK4MKWBAK3U/

11. “Leading Florida Democrats Fried, Book arrested during abortion protest in Tallahassee” Miami Herald, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article273945890.html