While Democrats staged a sit-in and led chants, the Florida Legislature approved Gov. Ron DeSantis’ congressional map, which will further Republican gains and eliminate a Black ability-to-elect district in Jacksonville.
The Florida House went into informal recess as a result of the protest, led by Jacksonville state Rep. Angie Nixon and Orlando state Rep. Travaris McCurdy. Then House Speaker Chris Sprowls gaveled the chamber back into session and promptly called for a vote while the protest was ongoing.
Nixon and McCurdy staged the protest after Rep. Yvonne Hinson refused to yield time during debate on the redistricting maps, which would eliminate Black ability-to-elect districts in Jacksonville and Orlando.
Democrats joined the two in chants, prayers and songs, while the Republican House leadership rushed to put the session into informal recess, turning off cameras and audio on live streams.
Nixon demanded that they abandon DeSantis’ map and go back to earlier maps. DeSantis vetoed an earlier redistricting plan that the Legislature passed, saying it was improper to take race into account in drawing Jacksonville’s 5th Congressional District.
The Legislature had drawn a Duval-only district that Republican leaders and staff said would have allowed Black voters to continue electing their preferred candidates.
DeSantis’ alternative map struck that district and replaced it with one that combines Jacksonville’s predominantly Black areas north and west of the St. Johns River with Nassau and Clay counties to make a Republican-leaning district.
During the protest, Politico reporter Gary Fineout reported that it appeared the House sergeant at arms took an Associated Press photographer’s press pass and escorted him out during the protest.
Republican lawmakers took to Twitter to decry Democrats’ actions, likening it to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In a statement, Republican House Speaker Chris Sprowls said the Democrats “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.”