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Florida House Republicans compare a Democratic protest against redistricting to the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol

Kimberly Leonard,Nicole Gaudiano   

Florida House Republicans compare a Democratic protest against redistricting to the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol
  • The Florida House stalled debate on a congressional map as Democratic protests erupted.
  • Democratic lawmakers have warned the new maps would suppress Black representation.

Republican state lawmakers in Florida are comparing a Democratic protest over the state's controversial new congressional map, which will eliminate two districts held by Black Democrats, to the violent January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

"What occurred there was far worse than what happened on January 6," Republican state Rep. Randy Fine told Insider after the vote on the map. "There's no question. January 6 was a bunch — was a few hundred clowns who acted like idiots in the Capitol. Nothing was ever at risk. These are actually elected members of the legislature attempting to impede its function. It's far worse. These are constitutional officers who've literally violated their oath of office."

Chanting "stop the Black attack," Florida House Democratic lawmakers staged a sit-in over the controversial redistricting bill, which was designed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and will eliminate two of the state's four districts represented by Black Democrats and create four more GOP-leaning districts.

Fine called the protesters "toddlers" and downplayed the January 6 attack, claiming that just one person had died and "they sort of brought it on themselves" by invading the Capitol. Even though one protestor, Ashli Babbitt, was shot by police, three others died from during the attack, including from heart-related problems. Five police officers died in the days and weeks after the attack.

Fine said Democrats protesting at the Florida House "violated their oath of office."

He added, "One could argue it's treason."

Rep. Spencer Roach, a Republican of Fort Myers, used similar language as Fine describe the Florida House protest.

"House Democrats are staging an insurrection on the House floor to obstruct the democratic process," he wrote on Twitter. "Shameful."

Republican state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia tweeted, "I think we need a 4/21 committee."

Ingoglia's tweet mocked the House January 6 Committee, which has been investigating the attack and former President Donald Trump's involvement in it.

Fine told Insider the reason for the disruption was "their desire to foment a constitutional insurrection."

"That's what it is. I mean, interfering in the ability to create congressional maps, which is a constitutional duty of the states," he said.

During the protest, Black lawmakers sat on the Florida House floor and sang "We Shall Overcome," according to a video from Forrest Saunders, a reporter for E.W. Scripps.

"Ron DeSantis does not care about Black people," Rep. Angie Nixon, a Democrat of Jacksonville, told Saunders in a video posted to Twitter. "I will not bite my tongue. There is an incessant attack on Black people in the state of Florida."

Some Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Shevrin Jones, spoke out against the January 6 comparisons on social media, "These two are not the same," he tweeted, showing pictures of the protest and the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

GOP House Speaker Chris Sprowls called the body into recess, which turned off the Florida Channel cameras, but reporters were still in the room filming the protest. Some reported on Twitter that they were kicked out 40 minutes into the protest.

When lawmakers returned from recess, they passed the bill along party lines, 68-38, despite loud protests from Democratic lawmakers.

After the protest, Sprowls tore into House Democrats, accusing them of trying to "hijack the legislative process."

The latest vote over redistricting comes after DeSantis vetoed another redistricting bill the legislature sent him and called a special session to focus on redistricting. His office provided the map to the legislature to consider.

"We are not going to have a 200-mile gerrymander that divvies up people based on the color of their skin," DeSantis said last week at an event in Miami. "That is wrong. That's not the way we've governed in the state of Florida. And obviously that will be litigated."

DeSantis is up for reelection in November and state lawmakers have largely fallen in line with his requests on a variety of issues. The new redistricting map is headed to his desk and is expected to result in lawsuits.


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