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Gov. DeSantis' Plans For Crackdown On Protests, Students Return To Class In Palm Beach County, ‘The Last Train To Key West’

Group of peaceful protesters holding signs.
Miami Herald
Activists make their way through Overtown during a Justice for George Floyd protest on Monday, June 1, 2020.

Governor DeSantis proposes a controversial new law that challenges the rights of protesters. We hear from a Palm Beach County teacher about having students back in the classroom. And we revisit one of the worst hurricanes to hit the United States with this month's Sundial Book Club pick.

On this Tuesday, Sept. 22, episode of Sundial:

Gov. DeSantis Plans To Crackdown On Protests

Protesting in Florida could fundamentally change in the years to come.

On Monday, Gov. Ron Desantis proposed new legislation that could bring felony charges to protesters. His plan also includes cutting any state aid or grants to local governments with proposals to “slash their police budgets” or defund the police.

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“I think all of those things really violate the First Amendment, violate the rights of protesters and on top of that are precisely the wrong statements to be making at this time in American history when we should be marching towards racial justice,” said Micah Kubic, Executive Director of the Florida ACLU.

He added that the governor’s plan could have a chilling effect on protests.

Some mayors across South Florida have raised concerns about local control of their budgets.

Governor DeSantis was flanked by members of law enforcement, Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson and House Speaker-Designate Chris Sprowls on his new plan.

“There’s been a lot of money spent on trying to paint one party as the party of law and order and the other party as the party of anarchy and disorder. So it’s definitely got a campaign message sort of built into it and one has to question the timing," said Sun Sentinel reporter Mario Ariza about Gov. DeSantis making this announcement less than two months before the November election.

We spoke with Ariza and Kubic about the governor’s plans for new legislation focused on protests and funding of law enforcement agencies.

Students Return To Class In Palm Beach County

Thousands of students are back in Palm Beach County classrooms this week.

Students in Monroe County were allowed back Sept. 14. Broward and Miami-Dade counties are looking to reopen school buildings in October.

The return to in-person learning has been hotly debated. Some teachers in Palm Beach County have called for the removal of the district’s Superintendent Donald Fennoy. They’ve also filed a class-action lawsuit filed against the district over their reopening plans.

“The Constitution of Florida states that we are supposed to have a safe teaching environment. And with a pandemic sweeping the world, we don't. That's the whole basis of [the lawsuit]. We do not have a safe working environment,” said Karen Walter, a science teacher and department co-chair at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach County.

We spoke with Walter about her first day back in a classroom with students.

‘The Last Train to Key West’

Courtesy of Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House

In 1935, one of the most powerful hurricanes to strike the United States hit the Middle Keys. It killed hundreds, including a large group of World War I veterans.

That’s the backdrop for the novel "The Last Train to Key West" by Chanel Cleeton, the September pick for the Sundial Book Club.

It follows the stories of three women in the Great Depression era and how they were changed when this powerful hurricane headed toward the Florida Keys.

“There were definitely parallels to some of the discussions we were having as I was writing the book about violence toward women. Certainly the #MeToo movement and kind of understanding both how far we've come and how far we have to go in terms of women's position in society,” said Cleeton.

We spoke with Cleeton about her novel.

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Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.