Awake the State rally

By James Tutten
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Hundreds attended the protest rally in front of Orlando City Hall last Tuesday, March 8. Disagreement over the recent budget proposals, and other decisions of newly elected Florida Governor Rick Scott, fueled the adverse reaction by Floridians.

People attending the Orlando rally were comprised of teachers, firefighters, police, and other concerned locals. Many people carrying signs denounced Rick Scott and the potential actions of the state legislators on the day they began its most recent session.

The more than $4 billion, cut in education alone, along with the addition of merit pay for all teachers, is a strong topic with education professionals. Ailene Markham, a special needs teacher from Edgewater High School said, “Close to 50 percent of teachers don’t teach FCAT classes, so how will we be rated by this merit pay system?”

Along with cuts in education there is also a proposal to lower and eventually eliminate the state corporate tax, and at the same time decrease state workers’ pensions to cover the loss in revenue. Steve Clelland, head of Orlando’s Professional Firefighters Union said, “Everyone here is upset with the idea of giving a tax break to corporations and putting the burden on the middle class.”

There are also proposals to affect the rights of the unions for firefighters and police in the state. Retired transit police officer, Victor M. Torrese, has been involved with unions for over 40 years and said, “Rick Scott is trying to destroy us and take away our bargaining rights. The same issues they have in Wisconsin are being seen here.”

Besides union and state workers, many other concerned citizens also attended the rally. Seminole State College student Sarai Chavarria said, “It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican, what matters is what you stand for and doing what’s right for the people.”

The “Awake the State” rally idea began online with a Florida-based organization relying on social media and word of mouth to help spread their message: “We can’t afford more budget cuts.”

More information on future protest and organizations can be found at
Updated information on budgetary and other state action can be found at