Community pressure forces legislator to step down after derogatory statements and aggressive behavior come to light
Miami, FL – Women leaders in Miami were confronted with breaking news Friday morning just before assembling for a scheduled press conference to denounce the sexist statements and harassing behavior of Florida State Senator Frank Antiles. The Hialeah legislator, bowing to a week of phone calls, online petitions, street level rallies and other forms public pressure, had resigned from his office, effective immediately.
Former FL State Rep. and current School Board member Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall was grateful, but wasn’t totally ready to declare victory. Having witnessed the resignation of State Rep. Ralph Arza for his use of racial slurs in 2006, she knows that the struggle for equity and equality is constant. Yet, she couldn’t help but smile as reporters confirmed the circulating rumors.
“We will do whatever we have to do to make sure that anyone that comes after him knows that we are not going to stand for [similar behavior],” said Dr. Bendross-Mindingall.
NewFM Lead organizer Valencia Gunder said that the resignation was Artilles only real choice if he wanted to do the right thing.
“He did the right thing. He doesn’t deserve to share the same workspace as Sen. Gibson,” said Gunther. “It was only right for him to remove himself and set the example for anyone else who feels and acts that way towards the women in that space, that this [behavior] won’t be tolerated. That they won’t be allowed to serve our communities.”
COMMUNITY PRESSURE YIELDS RESULTS
A diverse cross section of community leaders in his district and the editorial boards of the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times were among the thousands voices had spent the majority of the week calling for Artiles resignation. Two online petitions, led by Florida Strong and Color of Change had already netted 7000 signatures by Friday morning. More than a dozen groups worked to collect signatures with the intention to send them to Senate President Joe Negron, including New Florida Majority, Dream Defenders, Emerge USA Florida, Equality Florida, the FL Latina Advocacy Network, Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, the National Congress of Black Women Orlando Chapter, the National Council of Jewish Women Florida, Organize Florida and SAVE. “We don’t need drunken sailors representing us,” said FLIC Votes Director Maria Rodriguez. “The successful pressure by community residents, especially in his own district, should send a loud message that we won’t tolerate sexist, racist or any kind of disrespectful leadership. We know that we deserve better.”
For Marcia Olivo of the Miami Workers Center, Artiles’ resignation send a strong message to women, especially young girls, that behavior that was once acceptable in the past will be actively and vocally resisted.
“Too many times, we as women are asked to tolerate even the most disgusting speech and behavior just so that we can get through the door of opportunities we have earned and deserve,” said Olivo. “In a week that also saw the Fox cutting ties with serial harasser and hate monger Bill O’Reilly, let today’s resignation be a recognition that not only won’t we tolerate it, we won’t be silent about it either.”
Dr. Bendross-Mindingall agreed.
“We will not be dismissed. We will not be ignored. We have made our marks on this earth and we will be recognized.”