TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man encased himself in concrete Friday outside the Governor’s Mansion in the state capital apparently to protest prison conditions related to the coronavirus.
Tallahassee police spokesman Kevin Bradshaw said the man, identified as 28-year-old Jordan Mazurek, put PVC pipes horizontally into two 55-gallon plastic drums filled with concrete, with some sort of mechanism that locked his arms in place. Mazurek was first spotted about 6 a.m. outside the fence surrounding the mansion and was eventually freed about 10:30 a.m.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported that one of Mazurek’s drums was painted in white letters with the words, “Stop the massacre.” The other read, “Free prisoners now.” The man also wore what appeared to be a surgical mask.
Mazurek is a sociologist originally from Forth Worth, Texas, who now lives in Florida and is a co-creator of a group called “Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons,” the newspaper reported. Mei Azaad, a spokeswoman for the group, said they did not organize the protest but were aware of it.
“This was an escalation to show some people in power that we are serious,” Azaad said. “Our end goal is that everyone in prison should be released. But it should start with the most vulnerable.”
On its website, the group said this about the protest: “In the past weeks, community members warned the governor of the public health disaster that would take place inside and outside of so-called correctional facilities if nothing is done to prevent the spread of” the virus.
“Today’s demonstration happened after other avenues were exhausted, and after infection rates have been climbing daily in Florida’s prisons, jails, and detention centers,” the website statement said.
It wasn’t easy getting Mazurek out, police said.
“He refused to let go so we ended up having to use heavy equipment” to extract him, Bradshaw said. That included jackhammers and other equipment.
Police said Mazurek will be charged with restricting or obstructing access without violence and was given a traffic ticket for blocking the roadway.
This week, prisoner rights advocates in a caravan of about 20 vehicles circled the Capitol complex and the Department of Corrections’ headquarters, chanting and shouting through megaphones. They demanded that inmates in Florida prisons and jails be released to stop the spread of coronavirus behind bars.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Fort Lauderdale on Friday morning for a coronavirus news conference. First lady Casey DeSantis, however, was seen by news media pushing children in a swing while the man was extracted.