FDLE: Dream Defenders Protest Costing Thousands, Hindering Law Enforcement Efforts
Since July 16, protestors calling themselves the "Dream Defenders" have been occupying the state capitol building to protest George Zimmerman's acquittal and push for the repeal of Florida's Stand Your Ground laws. Harry Belafonte has joined the cause and Jay-Z is boycotting Florida in solidarity.
All weekend, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has been releasing updates on the protest, focusing on police costs.
As of Sunday, according to the agency, police costs related to the protest were $182,362.05. Capitol police officers were being denied their regular days off and working overtime.
Police were enforcing a rule that "the Capitol is closed at 5 p.m. Friday and the public is not allowed to enter the Capitol until it opens for business on Monday at 8 a.m." Former Senator Nan Rich was initially denied access into the Capitol but later was let in by "a Senate staff member with key card access," according to the FDLE spokesperson.
The FDLE says protestors complained of being denied food, but countered that those protestors were free to leave, but would not be allowed in until this morning. Someone bringing donuts for protestors was denied entry.
According to the FDLE, the protestors were interfering with law enforcement efforts because:
"One of the coordinators, Gabriel Pendas, was heard by a Capitol Police Officer giving out the Capitol Police Director's cell phone number and direct FDLE phone number and PIO phone number and encouraged the group to call FDLE to complain... The FDLE watch desk was overwhelmed with calls from protesters shutting down the ability of law enforcement agencies across Florida to make requests for AMBER Alerts, and officer involved shootings and crime scene assistance."
Over 50 people remained inside protesting Saturday night. Via Facebook, a group member said they'd be fine living off peanut butter and jelly.
Workers World reported that Dream Defenders Executive Director Philip Agnew vowed, "The most important thing that people should know is we are not leaving here. This is not a temporary thing."
Follow Dream Defenders on Twitter via the hashtag #takeoverfl.