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Florida Democratic Chair Nikki Fried, Sen. Lauren Book arrested during abortion bill protest

Florida Democratic Chair Nikki Fried, Sen. Lauren Book arrested during abortion bill protest
Florida Democratic Chair Nikki Fried, Sen. Lauren Book arrested during abortion bill protest 02:24

TALLAHASSEE - Florida Democratic Party chair Nikki Fried and Senate minority leader Lauren Book were arrested with nearly a dozen others at Tallahassee City Hall on Monday as they protested the Florida Senate passing a six-week abortion ban.

The protest was orchestrated by Women's Voices of Southwest Florida, Florida National Organization for Women, Bans off Miami with the support of other community organizations. Florida Planned Parenthood Action posted a video of the arrests on Twitter. While protesters were being placed in handcuffs, they shouted "shame" at police officers.

In a news release, the Tallahassee Police Department said that protesters against the abortion ban were told they would have to leave after sunset, but 11 people refused to go and were arrested for trespassing.

Both Booke and Fried were charged with trespassing on property after a warning. 

"You know, there are certain things that are just worth fighting for. And this isn't about the two of us. It's not even about the women who were arrested tonight. It was about protecting women across the state," said Fried after her arrest.

"Because every single day in our state right now, you're seeing atrocious things happening in Tallahassee out of the capital, taking away our freedoms, taking away a woman's right to choose, making it less safe in our streets. After the governor signed that, the permitless carried today and every single day in Tallahassee, it is getting worse and worse for the people of our state. And so we're going to continue to fight," she added.

Sen. Book said, "We don't just talk the talk, we walk the walk and in this situation that meant sitting alongside individuals who are protesting," she continued, "This is not a ploy. This is not a spectacle any more than any of the other things that we do every single day, every single day in this body, every simple time we show up and do the work. Those aren't stunts," Sen. Book said. 

Fried posted a $500 bond, while Book was released without bond, according to court documents.

Fried is set to be arraigned on May 18, while Book will be back in court on April 27.

The protest came after the state's Senate approved a bill to ban abortions after six weeks. A six-week ban would more closely align Florida with the abortion restrictions of other Republican-controlled states and give Gov. Ron DeSantis a political win on an issue important with GOP primary voters ahead of his potential White House run.

Florida Democrats and groups advocating for abortion rights say this proposal disproportionally affects low-income women and people of color.

The bill would have larger implications for abortion access throughout the South, as the nearby states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi prohibit the procedure at all stages of pregnancy and Georgia bans it after cardiac activity can be detected, which is around six weeks.

"Bodily autonomy should not give a person the permission to kill an innocent human being. We live in a time where the consequences of our actions are an afterthought and convenience has been substitution for responsibility, and this is unacceptable when it comes to the protection of the most vulnerable," said Sen. Erin Grall, a Republican who sponsored the bill.

The proposal allows exceptions to save the life of the woman and exceptions in the case of pregnancy caused by rape or incest until 15 weeks of pregnancy. In those cases, a woman would have to provide documentation such as a medical record, restraining order or police report. DeSantis has called the rape and incest provisions sensible.

It would require that the drugs used in medication-induced abortions - which make up the majority of those provided nationally - could be dispensed only in person by a physician.

The proposal must still be approved by the House before it reaches the governor's desk. Florida currently prohibits abortions after 15 weeks.

If approved, the new bill would only take effect if the state's current 15-week ban is upheld in an ongoing legal challenge that is before the state Supreme Court.

Democrats have conceded that they cannot stop the new proposal from moving forward since Republicans control a supermajority in the Legislature and have largely focused on DeSantis' priorities during the ongoing legislative session. 

"The loss that we saw in November, while it was a complete collapse of the Democratic part, this didn't happen overnight," Fried said. She told CBS Miami's Ted Scouten the party is rebranding and revamping in an attempt to regain some power. 

"We are going to be showing back up, knocking back up on people's doors, back in our communities, making sure that we're organizing on the ground and that we are getting candidates up and down the ballot that are truly reflective of the values of the people of our state." 

During debate earlier on Monday, Democratic Sen. Book urged women to contact her office directly, reading her phone number aloud on the Senate floor, if they are considering getting an abortion and need to connect with healthcare providers.

"Please don't take matters into your own hands. Do not put your safety at risk. No back-alley abortions. There are people and funds that will help you. No matter where you live, no matter how desperate of a situation you are in, no matter how helpless it may seem. I promise you are not alone. Call my office," Book said.

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