Associated Press, Jan. 19, 2004
About a dozen students walked out Monday before Gov. Jeb Bush gave a Martin Luther King Jr. day address at historically black Florida A&M University.
The 150-seat auditorium classroom was filled to capacity when the group, identified only as “students of FAMU,” handed out a one-page statement describing Bush’s holiday visit as disrespectful to King’s legacy and black students.
They contrasted Bush’s position with King’s on affirmative action, racism and war and chastised the governor for not restoring the voting rights to black voters who were erroneously purged from the rolls prior to the 2000 presidential election.
The governor’s brother, George W. Bush, won the White House when he won Florida by 537 votes following a controversial recount.
Bush said he had been unaware of the walkout, but said such demonstrations are “an important element of our free society.”
“They have every right to do it. It doesn’t bother me a bit,” said Bush, who had been invited by the school to speak.
“I have great admiration for the students here and for their success,” Bush said. “I wanted to make the link that the success of this university could not have occurred without the struggles that Dr. King and many others a generation ago undertook.”
Meanwhile in Broward County, suspended Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant was the grand marshal of Hallandale Beach’s parade, two weeks after city commissioners withheld more than $6,000 because parade organizers would not replace her.
Bush suspended Oliphant in November for incompetence, misfeasance and neglect of duty. She came under scrutiny following 2002’s botched gubernatorial primary, where voters received bad ballots and inaccurate registration information; and some polls opened late and others closed early. Thousands of votes were not counted until a week after the election.
Resident Alva Drummond cheered and took photos of Oliphant, who rode in a horse-drawn carriage.
“I’m glad to see this,” Drummond told the Miami Herald. “We don’t want to see separation. All of us need to come together.”