On my way the office this morning, the local NPR station (www.WFSU.org) reported that the Dream Defender had cost the state of Florida $103,000 in extra law enforcement. According to the report (which is not yet posted on the site), these costs are primarily a result of Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Officials working overtime. The story made two points very clear. First, the FDLE had only about $130,000 dollars in overtime last year. Second, that this current total was “worrisome” since the fiscal year has just begun. The story, in short, put a price on protest.
It was a smart move on the part of the state. The Governor doesn’t want to deal with the Dream Defenders, but he needs to tread lightly since he is an unpopular politician seeking reelection. Circulating the cost of allowing citizens to protest (particularly young liberals) may reignite state Tea Partiers to dust of their signs and come stage a protest of their own. The Dream Defenders, themselves, may have helped light the fuse for a showdown with Tea Partiers. According to the report, the Dream Defenders said that they “were not concerned with the cost [associated with their protest] because that would put a dollar amount on a human life.” While I agree with the sentiment, this particular response may not work in their favor. It is very likely that some Floridians will consider the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death as now a distinct issue from the current protests and its cost to the taxpayers. If this is the case, the Dream Defenders may find themselves on the defensive and discussing issues unrelated to their cause.
UPDATE: Similar stories were repeated on local news. On CBS, the anchor asked “How much are the protestors costing you?”