Political Hay

Occupy Governor Scott

Why is Florida's governor tolerating the post-Zimmerman occupation of the state capitol?

By 7.29.13

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Since three days after George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict, a rag-tag group of 30 to 50 malcontents has been indulging a messy snit with the American jury system in a hallway outside of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office in the Capitol Building in Tallahassee. These idlers have camped there 24-7: eating, drinking, sleeping (along with some suggestions of other things) and generally making a mare’s nest of part of a building that is closed to public business at 5 p.m. weekdays and on weekends.

The cost of this puerile political theater isn’t trivial. Uniformed officers and Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents have had to babysit this bunch, abusing time that could otherwise have been devoted to legitimate law enforcement purposes. FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger told me the police security cost of the operation through Thursday had reached $150,000, a tab that will grow larger and be passed on to Florida taxpayers.

The tab will grow larger because the group sponsoring the camp-in, an outfit with the delusional name of Dream Defenders, says it plans to stay in the Capitol until Scott calls a special session of the Florida Legislature to overturn the Stand Your Ground provision of Florida’s self-defense law. Scott says he won’t call a special session, and legislative leaders have shown no interest in putting an end to Stand Your Ground even if a session were called.

The whole business got larger, sillier, messier, and more costly Friday when C-List has-been, folk-singer Harry Belafonte showed up to egg the idlers on. (If it weren’t for dissing the country that made him rich and whooping up leftist phantasms, Belafonte would have long since been reduced to an answer to a Trivial Pursuit question. It has been almost 60 years since “tally me banana.” His day-o has come and gone.) About 250 were on hand to hear Belafonte, never one to pass up an opportunity to make extreme and incoherent statements in his second career as a leftist nutter, say Scott should act before the situation becomes “ungovernable.”

“At the moment all of this is governable, all of this is in a place where it can be debated and analyzed and discussed in a very peaceful, calm, productive way,” Belafonte lectured. The 86-year-old Belafonte made this remarkable statement before a group of people without jobs and lives who say they’re prepared to sustain in a public hallway indefinitely until part of a law that wasn’t even involved in the Zimmerman trial is revoked. (Most of this lot’s parents hadn’t been born when Belafonte last had a hit.) 

Lots of Floridians agree with Belafonte that Republican Scott, a nominal conservative, should act. But the folks I’m hearing from say he should act by clearing the state Capitol of spoiled protesters who have no business being there, are costing taxpayers a packet to ride herd on, and are impeding those wishing to conduct legitimate state business.

It’s no puzzlement that folks who hold to the Law According to Al Sharpton should find the Zimmerman verdict odious, or that they should make outrageous demands. This is what this crowd does in the absence of adult supervision (which is thin on the ground in Tallahassee). What is puzzling is that Scott is allowing this bunch, at considerable public expense, to deface the Capitol Building in the name of their phony grievances.

So it seemed the soul of reasonableness to ask Scott the question I’ve heard numerous times since this opera buffa began, to wit: “Why doesn’t the governor just run their scruffy a**es out of there, clean up the hallway, and be done with it?”

The question is reasonable because Scott, officials of his administration, and Florida’s legislative leaders fully understand the protesters’ demands. This is not a matter of free speech. What the protesters have been engaging in is not speech but infantile defiance and bad behavior. Behavior that has costs that Scott has chosen, for his own reasons, to pass on to Florida taxpayers.

But I won’t be reporting today on what Scott’s reasons are for allowing a rabble to take over part of the Capitol. I can’t because he won’t say. He won’t say why he hasn’t stopped this circus. And he won’t say how long he plans to allow it to go on and how much taxpayers’ money he is willing to allow to be wasted.

I put the question to Scott spokesman John Tupps. He said he’d get back to me. When he did, what he sent was a video clip of the governor saying he would not call a special session to consider Stand Your Ground. I already knew this, and anyway it has nothing to do with why Scott is tolerating the Occupy Governor Scott’s Office crowd on the public dime.

In an impressive non sequitur, Tupps also suggested I contact the FDLE if I wanted to know more about “rules and procedures of the Florida State Capitol.” Well, I didn’t want to know about these rules any more than I wanted to know about Robert’s Rules of Order. I wanted to know, as young Tupps is clearly smart enough to understand, why Rick Scott, duly elected governor of the great state of Florida, was allowing a bunch of spoiled rat bags to deface the Florida Capitol round the clock to no purpose and with no end in sight.

So I sent Tupps a “with all due respect” note and repeated the question, which is almost stark in its clarity: “Why is Governor Scott allowing this sit-in to go on at expense to Florida taxpayers?” What I got back at least furnished me with a laugh. It wasn’t a response but a flip off: “Thanks for reaching back out. I’ll let you know if we have anything further to say.”

My reply was to the effect that if Scott didn’t want to say why, though he clearly has the juice to do it, he doesn’t want to clear the Capitol hallways of trespassing and garbage-producing rabble, it would be OK. But that I’d be obliged if I could just have a “no comment” or a “We don’t want to answer that one” instead of the “we’ll be in touch” two-step that his latest email was (actually I phrased it more politely than this – but it meant the same thing). I’m still waiting for word on why the power of the chief executive officer of Florida does not extend beyond his office threshold.

It would seem to be in Scott’s interest to show a little backbone in this matter. He’s already lost political capital with conservatives for appointing the meanest, hanging prosecutor (one Angela Corey – recommended by Florida’s Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi) to go after George Zimmerman after Sanford PD and that judicial district’s state attorney had already come to the conclusion, later shown in court to be correct, that there was insufficient evidence to charge Zimmerman with a crime. Scott committed this craven act purely in reaction to pressure from the Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton Race Hustle Marching and Chowder Society who were hamming it up across the state (with a supine media acting as their megaphones).

Lots of Floridians believe it’s time we stop hand-feeding, sucking up to, and making excuses for these unsatisfiable disturbers of the peace and move on to a post-Zimmerman life. A good first step would be to clear the decks outside of government offices. Scott could cause this to happen any time he chooses.

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.