Women and immigrant rights advocates fought back against harmful bills

On Wednesday, March 8th, over 200 women from across the state mobilize to march in Tallahassee for International Women’s Day in solidarity with the international strike Day Without Women.

The action was organized by the Florida Latina Advocacy Network (FL LAN) of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Power U Center for Social Change, Hispanic Federation, Planned Parenthood of FL, Emerge USA, Women’s March of Florida, SEIU – FL, AFL-CIO, Pride at Work South Florida, Mi Familia Vota, American Friends Service Committee, Coqui Language Collective, Students Working for Equal Rights, Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward, Women Working Together, For Our Future, Her Florida, Inc.

The day began with a mile-long march where advocates took to the streets chanting “her body, her choice” and “no hate, no fear, immigrants are welcomed here.” The march ended with a press conference on the steps of the state Capitol, led by reproductive rights, immigrant rights, LGBT rights and Black Lives Matter advocates who spoke on the intersectionality of the four movements.

“Today, Florida took a stand against legislators playing politics with the lives of women and immigrants whose rights are under attack here in Florida. We all deserve to be treated with respect and to have our basic human right to health, dignity and justice upheld. We marched and rallied today to send a message loud and clear: we will not allow legislators to target and dehumanize our communities. Florida is ours and we won’t back down until the law protects the humanity and autonomy of women, immigrants and their families,” said Gaby Garcia-Vera, Field and Advocacy Manager, FL LAN for NLIRH.

Francesca Menes of the Florida Immigrant Coalition added, “Today our communities are here to let Florida politicians know we are watching everything they are doing for the next 58 days. We need to make sure they will not continue to attack us. We must make it clear that we will not allow them to rip our families apart, and that we will be here to delay and stop any bad legislations that these politicians attempt to pass this session. We are here fighting to protect immigrants, women, communities of color, LGBTQ and our youth. We are here standing united to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions. We will not forget come 2018.”

Vetnah Monessar, Central Florida & Tampa Director of Emerge USA, spoke of the country’s past values. “To me, America isn’t just the name of a country. No, it used to be an ideal, a path for dreamers and those who work hard. Ultimately, it used to champion immigrants, not turning its back on the very same foundation that made this country so distinct and prominent,” Monessar said.

Also speaking at the news conference was Jasmen Rogers of the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward. “We stood here today, many races, cultures, ethnicities, genitalia, and so many stories. Hoping that maybe, this one for the first time in its history, America will be great for all of us. We deserve to be adequately represented from our local officials to the halls of the White House. We will not stand idly by while our government interferes, whether prompted by racism, patriarchy, islamophobia, transphobia, classism, or any other oppressive system, into the lives of any of our people. We will protect each other, we will stand up, and we will fight back,” Rogers said.

Community leaders took part in legislative meetings and hallway take-overs to remind legislators that women of all backgrounds will be impacted by bills like H.B. 19, which intends to provide that a physician is liable for damages, physical injuries or emotional distress resulting from the termination of a pregnancy. This bill also provides a statute of limitations for cause of action – up to four years after the abortion is performed; for a minor the timeframe is 10 years.

Many of the organizations who participated in the #WomenTakeFL action also pledged to join the We Are Florida campaign and maintain constant presence during legislative session to fight against the nine anti-immigrant and anti-refugee bills currently proposed.

Sister events were also organized in Miami, Broward, Tampa and Clearwater.