By Lydia Nusbaum
April 21, 2022 Updated 4:47 P.M. ET
TALLAHASSEE (FLV) – Debate on a redistricting bill in the Florida House chamber abruptly ended when Democrats began yelling and staging a sit-in on the House floor in protest Thursday afternoon.
The redistricting bill would eliminate two black held U.S. Congressional seats.
Chaos erupted when Democrat state Rep. Angie Nixon interrupted the debate shouting “black votes are under attack.” Other Democrats joined in on the chanting and staged a sit-in for about an hour. The House chamber went into recess and lawmakers not participating in the protest were told to leave the chamber.
Republican lawmakers eventually returned and approved several bills even while the Democrats continued to yell and scream.
“Today a group of Representatives decided to hijack the legislative process, violating House Rules and interfering with the rights of their fellow elected colleagues to debate important legislation before the body,” said Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
After the vote, Democrats told reporters that 75 minutes was not enough time to debate these bills. But the House Speaker said Democrats agreed to 75 minutes of debate and did not request any additional time prior to the protest.
“We saw a group of Florida House members with microphones at their desk, a statewide audience, and an opportunity to vote on behalf of their constituents, and they instead chose to pretend they had to stage a protest to be heard,” Sprowls said.
Democrat state Rep. Fentrice Driskell called the protest “civil disobedience” and said it a fundamental principle in the United States.
“And what happened today with our membership, you know, we did everything we could to approach it from a policy point and from the actual process and the rules,” Driskell said.
House members Tweeted out multiple angles and perspectives of the protest:
The redistricting bill eliminates two districts, District 5 and District 10, that are drawn in favor of a minority black population to elect a Democrat in their respective districts.
Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed this map after saying the legislature’s previous map was unconstitutional and racially gerrymandered. The Governor said District 5 was drawn to favor black representation, despite it not being a black-majority district.
However, Democrats claim it disenfranchises black voters and violates the Fair Districts amendment Florida voters passed in 2010.
The Florida House of Representatives was the last hurdle the redistricting bill would need to clear before landing on the Governor’s desk. Florida lawmakers also approved legislation Thursday that would strip Disney of its self-governing powers and approved a bill to remove a Big Tech exemption for theme parks including Disney.
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