Dream Defenders Executive Director Philip Agnew has said he knew the group would have to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable” during its now-13-day sit in at the Capitol.
The activists reached a new level of “uncomfortable” over the weekend — the group said Capitol Police stopped food from coming into the building, leaving a group of about 50 protesters with little more than snack items and a few cups of water. Reports from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement indicate that’s not accurate.
Agnew insists the Dream Defenders aren’t going anywhere. Ciara Taylor, political director for the Dream Defenders, said spirits are high.
“It’s awesome — if anything we look at this as a win,” Taylor said. “Obviously we’re putting enough pressure on them to where they’re trying to starve us out of the Capitol. This is like a last resort sort of thing. We’ve been sitting here and we’ve been sleeping here. A little less food won’t bug us.”
As of Sunday morning the protest has cost the Capitol $182,362, including $68,777 in overtime for law enforcement officers. Gretl Plessinger, FDLE spokeswoman, said in a statement that calls to FDLE in support of the protest shut down the center’s ability to answer requests for AMBER Alerts, crime scene assistance and help with officer-involved shootings.
An additional spokesperson was requested to field the high volume of calls. The majority of callers hung up the phone when an FDLE employee answered, Plessigner said.
The report also said the lack of food and water was inaccurate.
“A non-employee attempted to enter the building with doughnuts for the protestors,” Plessigner said in the report released Sunday afternoon. “The individual was not allowed access per previously established policy. The protesters/supporters inaccurately reported the absence of food and unavailability of water in the Capitol.”
Taylor said typically over the weekend there are legislators and Capitol staff members who were willing to bring food when the protest first started. She said staff members felt uncomfortable with assisting the protesters.
“We’re playing music, getting to know people,” Taylor said. “We’re planning for our mock legislative session for this upcoming week.”
The Dream Defenders have been camped out in the Capitol since July 16, days after neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Saturday a new group of protesters traveled to the Capitol to bring food to those sitting inside the building. They were turned away by Capitol Police.
Still, protesters inside the Captiol weren’t deterred by the lack of food.
“We will survive off of PB&J till Monday,” Travis Roberts posted on his Facebook page Saturday.