The students say they wanted to send a message that politicians responsible for racist legislation would not be welcome on campus.
Just after Gov. Jeb Bush began speaking, Florida A&M university students filed out in a silent protest. They refused to give their names, but said they are still bitter over the governor's One Florida Plan that eliminated affirmative action.
“Jeb Bush has exhibited a great disdain for black people. We feel that what he stands for is visibly and obviously extremely opposed and contrary to what Dr. King stood for,” says a FAMU student.
Back inside the governor was insisting his policies have improved the lives of African Americans.
“We have more minority students attending our universities now, not because of edict but because they're better qualified,” said Gov. Jeb Bush.
Gov. Bush says he admires the success of FAMU students, even if they disagree with him.
“I'm not sure what the protest is about, but having said that, to allow people to protest is what Dr. King fought for, which is I think an important element of our free society, so they have every right to do it. It doesn't bother me at all,” Gov. Jeb Bush says.
Sophomore class president Torey Alston says he was glad the governor came in spite of the bad blood.
“I think it was definitely a positive thing for the governor to come out and celebrate this Martin Luther King occasion and speak to the students to try to heal the wounds that are still present in this community and on campus. So I think it was a positive gesture,” said Torey Alston, a FAMU student.
But many minority students remain skeptical, especially with the governor's brother looking for more black votes this election year. Protesting students handed out a position paper contrasting the governor's position on affirmative action, distribution of wealth, racism, and criminal justice. They also cited their frustration over the fact that black voters mistakenly removed from the rolls prior to the 2000 election have still not had their voting rights restored.