As Orlando approaches the one month anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, efforts to enact preventative reform rage on.
This week, Orlando political activists set their sights on Sen. Marco Rubio (R) for his inaction on gun reform and anti-discrimination laws with a 49-hour sit-in, an hour for each person who died in the massacre.
Organized by a coalition of Orlando political advocacy groups, the protest began Monday at 10 a.m. Eighty people entered the building, occupying as much space in the lobby as they could. Among them were several University of Central Florida students, including Knights for Bernie Vice President Alex Storer.
“This isn’t just about Marco Rubio,” Storer said. “We’re calling upon anyone in power who’s willing to listen and enact real change on the issues we stand for.”
In a press release, the protestors outlined their platform, calling for the following comprehensive reforms:
- Requirements for lawmakers to reject financial contributions from the NRA,
- Universal background checks to purchase firearms,
- Criminal punishments for the sale, manufacture and possession of semiautomatic rifles and large capacity ammunition feeding devices,
- A fully inclusive national LGBT anti-discrimination law,
- An end to police brutality and mandatory-minimums from non-violent drug offenses.
A spokesperson for Rubio’s office came down and issued a statement to address the protestors, expressing the office’s sympathies toward the victims of the Pulse shooting and thanking the crowd for coming out to express their grievances.
“Over the past month, Sen. Rubio has supported common sense compromises to make it easier to track individuals who have been on the terror watch list and later try to buy firearms, all while improving due process protections for law abiding Americans," the statement read.
The protestors called the statement “meaningless platitudes and political pandering in response to unspeakable violence.”
Fausto Cardenas, senior political science major, said Rubio’s inaction stung twice, as both a fellow Floridian and member of the Latino community.
“I feel like he’s using it as a political play,” Cardenas said. “He says he sympathizes with the victims, yet he takes on a platform that victimizes us. I feel like he hasn’t taken this incident into account as a Latino person himself.”
Following Pulse, Rubio issued statements insinuating he’d be willing to soften the hard stance on guns he adopted during his 2016 presidential bid. He has said that he would consider common sense gun reforms that wouldn’t violate the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners.
He continues to vote with the majority of Republicans in the Senate on gun reform, resulting in four pieces of gun legislation failing to win the 3/5 majority needed for a closure vote.
UPDATE: July 11, 2016 10:19 p.m.: 10 of the sit-in participants have been arrested for trespassing after ignoring the Orlando Police Department's orders to clear out of the building by 7:00 p.m. and highlighting their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. The sit-in will continue outside the office until it can resume when the building reopens.
Story originally published on July 11, 2016.