The 10 sit-in protesters speak out after being arrested at Rubio’s office

By : Jeremy Williams
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On July 11, one month after the horrific shooting at Pulse Orlando that took the lives of 49 people, more than 70 protesters took to the Orlando office of Sen. Marco Rubio to stage a sit-in. The group was protesting Rubio’s anti-LGBT stance on same-sex marriage and his defense of the National Rifle Association.

The protesters held signs, sang songs and took to social media with the hashtag #SitInForThe49. The sit-in lasted nine hours, and when 10 protesters refused to leave until they got answers from Rubio, they were arrested.

the orlando 10 for the 49

The Orlando 10 for the 49 were booked, fingerprinted, had mugshots taken and were released later that night on $250 bond. They now face misdemeanor trespass charges.

Below the Orlando 10 for the 49, in their own words, say who they are and why this was important to do.

Geoffrey-Scott-Paquette-mugshot-40229181.223x2231. Geoffrey Paquette “I am disgusted by the inaction from the very people elected to (supposedly) make our daily lives better. Instead, assault weapons created only to cause death are readily available and the police continue to kill innocent black people. I am privileged enough to be white, a male and work for a progressive organization that cares not for an arrest record; I am compelled to use this privilege in every way possible to force a violent, racist, homophobic, and unequal society to evolve. I believe that our country, and the world, can change if, and only if, normal people make sacrifices both big and small.”

Ida-Vishkaee-Eskamani-mugshot-40229178.223x2232. Ida V. Eskamani “I’m heartbroken and I’m angry, and I deal with those emotions best through advocacy. I’m a straight ally, a first generation Iranian-American, and I work for Equality Florida here in Orlando. I was born and raised in Orlando; it’s my home and these are my people. Over a month has passed since the Pulse Nightclub Shooting and we have seen zero action by leaders like Sen. Marco Rubio to end the gun violence and discrimination. The shooting also impacted communities of color, plagued by low wages, a broken immigration system, police brutality and community violence – and yet still, no action. The solutions are obvious and straightforward and the lives lost at Pulse, and to gun violence and discrimination must be honored through action. I accepted arrest because I was committed to the 49-hour sit-in to end gun violence and discrimination. Sen. Marco Rubio was not. I believe love is louder only when we raise our collective voices, and we are just getting started.”

Robin-Denise-Harris-mugshot-40229405.400x8003. Robin Harris “Social Justice Activist/Minister. ‘There comes a time when silence is betrayal.’ My decision to accept arrest versus surrendering to requests of political bourgeoisie to give in and retreat came from reflecting on those who recently lost their lives in Orlando. Not to mention all who have been murdered and slaughtered due to excessive police brutality and gun violence. I chose and choose to speak and act for those who can not do so for themselves. During that moment, I also made an intentional decision to no longer allow fellow clergy persons to hurl homophobic rhetoric in the name of God. Such words have fueled the fire of hate and pulled the same trigger that Omar Mateen utilized. I also wanted these souls of the 49 Pulse shootings to be redeemed by their community, so their living and dying would not be in vain. Their lives along with others dying to violence and discrimination mattered, and my choice to stand revives their humanity forever. I will not be moved or silenced ever in the face pf oppression.”

Joan-Rhoads-Erwin-mugshot-40229177.223x2234. Joan Erwin “Age 72, member of First Unitarian Church of Orlando and full-time volunteer. My husband and I were on a long road trip at the time of the Pulse Massacre just three blocks from our home. We were frustrated to be away when our friends were in such pain and doing a lot in the community, and grateful when we could join the #sitinforthe49.”

Charlotte-Maria-Davis-mugshot-40229176.223x2235. Charlotte “ChaCha” Davis “I am known in the community as the ‘Mouth of the South,’ and have called Orlando my home for 15 years. For 12 of those years, I have made a career as a promoter, entertainer, and host in the LGBTQ+ community, executing events at Parliament House, Southern Nights and Pulse Orlando, among others. I began my work in advocacy as event coordinator at the Miracle of Love’s LGBTQ+ youth center, focused on HIV/AIDS patients in the black community. As a black woman and lesbian, the massacre at Pulse Nightclub, on top of the systematic cases of police brutality in my community inspired me to take direct action. Following the Pulse Nightclub Massacre, I immediately began to mobilize the black LGBTQ+ community and affirming faith leaders to organize vigils and community events in support of the victims. I accepted arrest in order to lift up the stories of the 49 and the injured, many of whom I know, love, and have watched grow up throughout the last twelve years working in the Orlando LGBTQ+ community.”

Jill-Giese-mugshot-40229179.223x2236. Jill A. Giese I’ve been a resident of Orlando for 25 years and a supporter of social justice, human rights and peace for longer than I can remember. My own story is so simple. I’m a straight, retired white woman who grew up in the deep south but fortunately was not raised in a racist or homophobic household. I am a proud single parent of a 28-year-old man who gives me great support for my activism. I know that I have been very privileged in my life. I’m not directly affiliated with any of the groups that helped organize the protest at Rubio’s office, but I have marched with many in the past and campaigned for candidates and initiatives that are needed to make change happen. I call and write letters because I know we can make a difference. I learned about #sitinforthe49 through a friend who knows I am a strong advocate for gun control and who had seen that I had a strong reaction to the Pulse massacre. I was willing to go to jail because I know that it takes action to get action. It was the least I could do to underscore how important these issues are.

Angelica-Charlotte-Brown-mugshot-40230413.400x8007. Angelica “Sugg” Brown “I am a warrior. Army veteran, Master Barber Stylist, mother of three, and grandmother of two with a grand baby on the way, I dive deep into advocacy, organizing for several causes that touch the many intersections of the LGBTQ+ black experience. This includes numerous causes including the fight for $15 minimum wage, racial equality, police brutality, community violence and LGBTQ+ equality, among other things. Following the Pulse Nightclub Shooting, I immediately began to work directly with the families impacted, working to ensure their stories were told and that they received financial support. I like to think of myself as a woman of limitless energy, love, and passion, leading chant after chant at the #SitInForThe49 and I worked to recruit friends and family to join. I accepted arrest in hopes to mobilize more community members to join the fight to end gun violence and discrimination in all communities.”

David-Thomas-Moran-mugshot-40229406.223x2238. David Thomas Moran “I did this because I am losing count. I can’t remember all the names of the people we’ve lost to hate and senseless gun violence. I did this for my friends Dru & Juan and the other 47 we lost and all those who survived the Pulse massacre on June 12, 2016. I did this for Somos Orlando and the many queer and ally Latinx people impacted by this hate crime. I did this because Pulse was the first gay club I went to in Orlando when I was just coming out. It was a place I went often with my friends. I did this because I’ve danced on the dance floor of Pulse with my mother. I did this for the five killed in Dallas and my friend Bryn who survived this violent assault of a peaceful, Black Lives Matters protest. I did this because Black Lives Matter. I did this for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and Trayvon Martin and the countless black lives we’ve lost to racist violence in this country. I did this because I am anti-police brutality and pro-police. I did this for the 32 Hokies we lost and all those who survived the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007. I did this because I felt helpless as a recent alumnus watching from afar in Orlando as gun violence devastated my community in Blacksburg ten years ago. I did this because nothing seems to have changed since then. I did this for all the survivors of gun violence, because I still live with the terror and trauma of surviving an armed robbery two years ago. I did this because I believe in the change we want to see – gun safety, equality and an end to rampant violence in our communities. I did this because this change has to happen now.”

Frederick-Velez-mugshot-40229182.223x2239. Frederick Vélez III Burgos “My name is Frederick Vélez III Burgos, and I’m the organizer of latino outreach at Organize Now. For a long time I have felt guilty about the senseless gun violence that has been spreading across our nation because I worked in Congress when mass shootings like the ones in Aurora, San Bernardino and Sandy Hook happened and I witnessed how politicians and organizations said that they were sorry for what had happened while continuing to accept money from the NRA and groups that promote hate and violence. So when the attack at Pulse happened two months after moving to Orlando I knew that I had to do something, especially when more than half of the victims were fellow Puerto Ricans. I decided to get arrested because I felt it was the only way to make sure that we honor the victims: by fighting to get out of the streets the weapons that have been used in these horrible attacks. And I will keep on doing everything in my power to make sure that our elected officials pass sensible gun control laws.”

Maria-Graziachrist-Bolton-Joubert-mugshot-40229402.223x22310. Maria Bolton-Joubert “Local Artist and Community Advocate. I did this because I am concerned for all people, and I want equality across the board. I myself have become more progressive over my own lifetime, and my compassion and concern for all groups of people grows daily. If I can change for the better, and grow to have more understanding and respect and care for all walks of life within this beautiful planet — then I believe that there is hope for everyone. Sometimes it takes time. And I do believe people fear what and who they do not know. So on that note — we must continue to get to know people. All people. And listen. I’m getting better. Let’s continue to push for awareness and equality for all — For the greater good of humanity. I want to help put an end to gun violence. I hope we raised awareness.”

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