TAMPA — Bay area residents rallied Tuesday to ensure their voices will be heard by legislators in Tallahassee during the 2014 legislative session.
Awake Tampa — a branch of Awake the State, a Florida progressive group that works to promote education, equality, voters’ rights and other issues — hosted the event in Ybor City’s Centennial Park to mark the start of the 2014 session. About 60 people attended the Tampa event, but Awake rallies across Florida also held Tuesday were expected to draw thousands, organizers said.
“These events just jump-start the community’s engagement,” said Melissa Mann, a representative of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “It’s our job as the people to put pressure on the politicians to make the right decisions.”
The Awake organization was formed after Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led Florida Legislature were elected in 2010, group members said. Local left-wing groups united to protest those politicians’ “disastrous” cuts to education, environmental protection and other areas, said emcee Chuck Terzian.
“We are awake,” he said to the Tampa crowd. “We are here to make our voices heard.”
Speakers at the rally called for a higher minimum wage, economic reform, expanded Medicaid and restoration of civil rights for convicted felons who have served their time in prison.
The event was an outlet for the working class to express opinions on issues that are important to them and hold their political representatives accountable, Mann said.
“People have the democratic right to be heard,” she said.