Protesters arrested during sit-in at Sen. Marco Rubio's office
Police called just 8 hours into sit-in
ORLANDO, Fla. – Protesters showed up at the downtown Orlando office of Sen. Marco Rubio with clear intentions: They want gun law reform.
"We want to have the truest kind of reform possible when it comes to all of our rights, all of our equality, and standing against any type of gun violence,” demonstrator Rasha Mubarak said.
So they set a goal: to conduct a sit-in at the office for 49 hours in memory of the Pulse nightclub's 49 victims killed. They wanted Rubio, an opponent of many gun law changes, to hear their message loud and clear.
"I never want to see, or go to another funeral of someone who was shot and killed in the name of evil ever again,” activist Athena Montes said.
However, just eight hours in, things changed. The building managers were ready to shut down at 7 p.m. Protesters wouldn't leave, so police were called. They clashed when many refused to walk out, and 10 people were arrested. The arrests left some protesters like Mubarak in tears.
"It's very emotional to see my friends and comrades get arrested," Mubarak said.
Commissioner Patty Sheehan stood close by, stunned by the arrests.
"I understand that passion, and I understand they are hurting, because their friends were killed. Something has to change, and sometimes this is the only way," Sheehan said.
She said she's working to fix what she sees as a broken system.
"This is ridiculous," she said. "We can't even pass sensible legislation at the local level. This National Rifle Association lobby is just way too powerful, and it's putting people in peril."
A statement from Rubio's office said that he welcomes input from across the political spectrum, adding, “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 Republican senator's team denied having anything to do with the arrests, saying that was the decision of the building owners.
"Our Orlando office is one of many offices in an independently run building that closes at 7 p.m. each night. The building management company asked the demonstrators to leave at that time, and almost all of them did. But when a small number of demonstrators refused to comply, the building's management had them removed," Rubio's office said in a statement on Tuesday. "Throughout the course of the day, we invited the demonstrators up to our Orlando office to meet, and they declined each time, so we spoke to them in the lobby. We would extend the invitation again today should demonstrators come to voice their concerns. None have returned so far today."
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