The Eight Best Activists in Broward County

The Eight Best Activists in Broward County (5)
Courtesy of Jillian Pim

Fighting for political rights in Florida is a Sisyphean task, sort of like trying to dam the Atlantic Ocean. It takes a certain kind of spunk to try to stand up to politicians in South Florida — a land founded on the idea that condominiums have more inherent value than nature and most human lives. The state flag might as well depict a huge boot crushing a mangrove tree.

In Fort Lauderdale, city officials passed laws criminalizing virtually every aspect of homelessness. The Everglades have been destroyed to grow sugar cane. State legislators this year passed legislation that protects the freaking Styrofoam industry.  Here in the Ponzi-scheme capital of the world, it often seems like every adult, child, animal, and plant has gone morally bankrupt.

But still, there are a few brave souls left in town willing to fight for the rights of common folk. And so today, we're saluting the eight best activists in Broward County. 

The Eight Best Activists in Broward County (3)

1. Arnold Abbott
Fort Lauderdale's homeless problem is perhaps the greatest shame in all of Broward County. The city's proposals to alleviate the problem have been laughable at best, downright unconscionable at worst. Case in point: After the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, at the apparent request of Beelzebub, made it prohibitive to feed the homeless outdoors in 2014, police cited a 90-year-old man, Arnold Abbott, for breaking the law. Abbott had been feeding the homeless since 1991, and it's pretty hard to break a 90-year-old with nothing left to lose. After his arrest, Abbott made no effort to stop helping the homeless, got cited a second time, debated Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler on television, and even sued the city. 

2. Jasmen Rogers
When it comes to race relations, South Florida sometimes still functions like a deep Southern enclave. But Jasmen Rogers remains committed to fighting for civil rights. When Peter Peraza, a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy, was criminally charged for having shot and killed a black computer engineer holding an unloaded air rifle, scores of cops wearing "All Lives Matter" T-shirts turned up at the Broward County Courthouse to support him. But Rogers, on behalf of both Black Lives Matter Broward and Dream Defenders, was there as a living reminder of the life that had been lost. Then, when Donald Trump came to town a few weeks ago, she stormed into the center of his Boca Raton rally and managed to catch a Palm Beach cop blocking black protesters from the event in the process. 

Seventeen-year-old Elijah Manley is running for president. He can't vote for himself and is trying to change that.
Seventeen-year-old Elijah Manley is running for president. He can't vote for himself and is trying to change that.
Courtesy of Elijah Manley

3. Elijah Manley
Manley, 17, is the kind of kid who thinks he can do anything. Even if a few of the ideas he's proposed — like running for president before turning 35 or lowering the voting age to 15 — don't seem fleshed out, his ambition is inspiring. Manley, a junior at Fort Lauderdale High School, unabashedly supports youth rights and believes that teens ought to get involved in local government from a young age. It's an admirable goal, even though we're a bit worried about some of the school days he seems to be missing.

4. Chaz Stevens

Let's get this out of the way: Chaz Stevens is obnoxious. His blog, MyActsOfSedition, can be particularly crass. But as distasteful as his style may be, he's effective, for sure. With a careful eye on local politics and a computer ever ready to dash off formal complaints, he has forced out of office several politicians, including the mayor of Deerfield Beach, and sent a few to jail.  Stevens made international headlines after the Florida State Capitol installed a Nativity scene, and in response, he claimed that he was a Satanist and deserved equal rights to celebrate his religion, eventually securing the right to place a Festivus Pole made of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans in the Capitol rotunda. Stevens continues to rail against corruption and mismanagement. In March, he asked the inspector general to investigate Broward County Commissioner Chip La Marca's financial dealings, adding at the end, in signature style,  "PS LaMarca blows donkey dick." 

5. Norm Kent
As publisher of South Florida Gay News and vice chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Kent manages to be the most prominent voice for stoners, LGBTQ folk, and any combination thereof throughout the state. (He's also managed to serve as president of the Broward County Criminal Defense Attorney’s Association too.) After the South Florida Blade shut down in 2009, there were fears that gay media in South Florida would die along with it. Without Kent, we may not have  a strong LGBT voice in print at all down here.

6. Silvie Suri-Perez
It's astounding that, in 2016, any streets in America are named after Confederate generals. But at least three streets in Hollywood, Florida, have been named after some of America's most racist people: Lee Street, after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee; Hood Street, after Gen. John B. Hood; and, most egregiously, Forrest Street, named after Ku Klux Klan founder Nathaniel Forrest. After New Times pointed out the street names, Suri-Perez of the Broward County Green Party mobilized, canvasing neighborhoods and protesting at City Commission meetings, with the hope that the streets be renamed after Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass.

7. Cal Deal
It should surprise no one that Deal, a longtime newspaperman, made this list. In his earlier years, Deal spent time at the New York Daily News, the now-defunct Miami News, the Sun Sentinel, and even a supermarket leaflet. Now, he's just a guy with a camera who can't stop himself from loosing unbridled fury at local politicians and scumbags. He was one of the first people to take on the North Broward Hospital District for giving a local pill mill some parking spaces. He fought to save a 100-year-old tree from the grubby hands of commercial real estate developers. He should probably still be working in newspapers.

8. Jillian Pim
After Fort Lauderdale banned feeding the homeless two years ago, Arnold Abbott wasn't the only person to stage a protest. Jillian Pim, of homeless advocacy group Food Not Bombs, decided to go on a hunger strike on behalf of the city's homeless, electing to drink only lemon water until the ban was lifted. (She added salt for electrolytes.) 

Bonus: Cara Jennings
Jennings, who is from Lake Worth (which is in Palm Beach County, not Broward), is a former city commissioner turned activist who famously bikes around town, advocating on behalf of undocumented immigrants and the poor. We've included her just as an excuse to re-embed this video of her calling Rick Scott an asshole to his face another time.

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