TAMPA, Fla. — New calls for change in the Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis administration’s stance on course material in state classrooms were heard Monday afternoon as demonstrators gathered in Tampa, Orlando and Miami to voice their concerns.
Some said they had to travel from areas hours away.
“I came up from Jacksonville, Florida to show my solidarity with the book banning as well as just the different political chaos that has been going on with DeSantis,” Princess Damali-Roberts, representative with Black Power Rising, said.
Those who showed up expressed concerns about the governor’s opposition to a proposed AP African American Studies course.
"Why not let it take place? It's not hurting anyone, it's only helping everyone," Elton Lassiter, lead organizer for Florida Rising in Hillsborough County, said. "Allowing students to be educated in as many courses as possible is going to be favorable for the students.”
Opponents of DeSantis said he is trying to stifle minority voices in the classroom, but the governor says the evidence shows that’s not the case and he’s trying to keep agenda-driven materials out of the state curriculum.
"Our education standards not only don't prevent but they require teaching black history," DeSantis said in a news conference in Tampa on Wednesday. "This was a separate course on top of that for advanced placement credit."
Demonstrators in downtown Tampa said the current administration is trying to inject politics into education.
"We wouldn't be out here about this political issue if he wasn't making these political decisions regarding education," Lassiter said.
However, DeSantis said the very nature of the course material that groups like Florida Rising are fighting for is down to political reasons.
"If you read actually what's in there, they're advocating things like abolishing prisons. Now, that's a radical political position." DeSantis said.
The governor has famously said Florida is where "woke goes to die," but protestors at Monday's rally are trying to change that narrative.
“Being woke, everybody wants to think it's a bad thing. But being awake and aware is where we need to be in order to move the agenda forward," Jeannette Bradley, board member for Florida Rising, said.