Don’t Tell Floridians in Support of Public Workers That the Numbers Aren’t With Them

While the news media in Florida featured heavy coverage of tea party members at “Awake the State” budget protest rallies, YouTube video and eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Here is just one gathering in Jacksonville, where a mayoral primary was being held. Other events were staged around the city, and repeated throughout the state.

Florida Residents Unite to “Awake the State”

AwakeStateSign at an “Awake the State” rally in Orlando

When the Florida legislature opened its 2011 session, there were a lot more people than usual in Tallahassee. The tea party sent in folks from all over, not just Florida, to support Gov. Rick Scott’s proposals to give away billions in revenue breaks to corporate interests and make it up by slashing paychecks and benefits to public service workers like teachers, rescue personnel, and law enforcement officers. But across Florida, counter-protests by these public servants and their supporters carried the day.

Ocoee Elementary School media specialist Isabel Chipungu electrified the Orlando crowd, declaring that teachers are being demonized.

“I love my job, but I’m angry,” she screamed from atop a picnic table in Senator Beth Johnson Park in downtown Orlando. “Teachers in this state are once again being made the scapegoat for all of the budget problems our politicians created. And we are again asked to pay the price. We have not had a raise in five years.”

While tea party zealots cultivate an air of chronic aggrievement and persecution, their leaders think nothing of taking back promises – and legal contracts – to union employees.

“People seem to have forgotten that the middle class is made up of hard-working individuals — firefighters, police officers, teachers, the people who pick up your garbage,” said Ron Glass, an Orlando firefighter who is secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Firefighters-Orlando, Local 1365.