Protestors felt their governor wasn’t listening to them, so they broke out their megaphones on Friday.
To make their voices heard, about 300 disgruntled residents and students took to the streets to protest Gov. Rick Scott’s budget cuts with a rally hosted by Fight Back Florida, a labor-student coalition.
They gathered on UF’s Plaza of the Americas to hear speeches while protesters in 14 cities statewide held similar rallies. Then, they marched about 15 blocks to City Hall.
Along the way, a man sitting in Mother’s Pub & Grill fist-pumped to the chants with a cigarette between his fingers. One marcher held a sign that compared Scott to the evil Lord Voldemort of the Harry Potter series. Drivers honked their horns, and some people left stores to join the humming river of signs and slogans.
Event coordinator Dave Schneider taped a letter to the door of City Hall that declared it a sanctuary for labor and education rights.
“We demand a government for the people and not against it,” Schneider said.
Eileen Roy and Gunnar Paulson, members of the School Board of Alachua County, came to the rally wearing red T-shirts that read “Education Cuts Don’t Heal.”
“I think it’s an effort to destroy public schools,” said Roy, a 30-year teacher who taught at Gainesville High School and Eastside High School. “I honestly do.”
She said county schools have been shielded from the worst of the cuts so far thanks to national stimulus funding, but that financial support will end after this year.
Paulson, a 40-year teacher who taught physical education and math at Gainesville High School and Buchholz High School, said the cuts will reduce the amount of services, like after-school sports, that schools will be able to provide. Inevitably, he said, cuts will mean higher drop-out and unemployment rates, which will affect all of Gainesville.
“People better wake up and realize this governor is not doing the right thing,” he said.