Tallahassee students say ‘Down with DeSantis!’
Tallahassee, FL – On February 22, about 35 students, community members and faculty rallied on the front steps of the Student Union at Florida State University. The rally was organized by FSU’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (FSUSDS) in response to Governor Ron DeSantis’ recent attacks on diversity programs and multicultural studies.
Attendees chanted “Money for schools and education, not for racist legislation!” “Education is liberation!” and “Black education matters!”
According to their official statement, FSUSDS has four primary demands for Florida State: One, the protection and expansion of all multicultural studies; two, the increase of Black student enrollment and professors; three, the protection of transgender students and athletes; and four, opposing DeSantis and his requests and recommendations.
In the past few weeks, DeSantis has made attacking DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) programs one of his top priorities. FSUSDS has held several rallies against his actions and policies in the past few months, such as his recent investigations into transgender university students and the denial of AP African American History for high school students.
Jason Carles, representing FSUSDS, drew attention to this, telling the crowd, “Less than two weeks ago we had a very similar protest with the same demands,” and “It’s disappointing that DeSantis keeps pushing this issue but as long as we are here, we’re going to fight back against it.”
While groups like FSUSDS have kept the fight going, the movement cannot and will not stop with just one event. Kaela Braxton, president of FSU’s Black Law Student Association, stressed the need for student advocacy and activism: “As students it shouldn't be our job to educate our leaders on why diversity, equity and inclusion is so important, but we have to make it our job if we want to preserve DEI initiatives on campus and keep [campus] a safe and welcoming environment for all students.”
FSUSDS held their rally in conjunction with SDS chapters across the nation trying to bring attention to not just DeSantis, but a nationwide whitewashing of schools. The Supreme Court is set to rule on the constitutionality of affirmative action sometime this year. Affirmative action is used to provide more equitable opportunities for students from historically underrepresented groups. Without it, higher education will become that much more inaccessible for Black students, Chicano students, Latino students and more. Legislators like DeSantis aim to make the few protections these programs offer obsolete.
Students expressed messages of hope and dedication to the ongoing struggle. Alex Carson, vice president of FSUSDS and organizer for FRSO, noted, “When FSU refused to get rid of the statue of slave owner Francis Eppes, SDS did not stop organizing and mobilizing students and community members in the fight to have it removed. Students like us fighting is the only reason it got taken down. The battle for education will be no different – in order to defeat the DeSantis agenda, we need a sustained movement built by as many students as possible!”
FSUSDS fought for more than five years to have the statue of slave owner Francis Eppes removed from campus. It was finally taken off of campus in the summer of 2020.
The February 22 event was cosponsored by several groups, including the Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC), Veg FSU, FSU Student Farmworker Alliance (SFA), the Black Law Student Association (BLSA), Food Not Bombs (FNB), Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO).
For more information and regular updates on FSUSDS’s campaigns and actions, search @FSUSDS on Twitter and Instagram.