In a disturbing yet sadly familiar showcase of hate, individuals from multiple neo-Nazi groups recently descended upon the streets of Orlando, Florida, spewing messages of prejudice and intolerance. This troubling event unfolded a mere week after a white supremacist callously murdered three Black individuals in nearby Jacksonville, their lives taken solely because of their race.
Florida, often referred to as the Sunshine State, is, regrettably, becoming known as a breeding ground for unbridled hate, and Governor Ron DeSantis seems to be enabling it with his actions and inaction.
According to an NBC News report, sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to Disney Springs after individuals donning Nazi insignia and flags showed up at a demonstration. These hate groups were identified as the Order of the Black Sun (OBS), Aryan Freedom Network, and 14 First by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The ADL also reported another demonstration later that same day, where the Goyim Defense League (GDL) and Blood Tribe (BT) participated in what they called the “March of the Redshirts.” This event featured 51 participants wearing red shirts, black masks, and black pants, brandishing swastika flags, performing Hitler salutes, and chanting vile slogans like “white power” and “Jews will not replace us.”
Disturbingly, USA Today reports that some of these demonstrators expressed support for Ron DeSantis, the state’s governor, who has a history of failing to condemn such open displays of hate within his state.
While some Florida lawmakers have denounced these demonstrations, Governor DeSantis remains conspicuously silent. This silence is not a one-off occurrence but part of a pattern where he only speaks up when forced to, as seen in a press conference last year. At that time, he accused Democrats of trying to “smear” him instead of condemning the hate groups as he should have.
DeSantis’s inaction is deeply concerning, especially in light of the recent hate-driven murders in Jacksonville. It appears that he is more interested in his political image than addressing the very real issues of hate and violence plaguing his state.
In contrast, the White House has pledged to be “forceful” in speaking out against race-based hate crimes, but it remains unclear whether new legislation will be proposed to combat anti-Black hate crimes, similar to the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act enacted in 2021 to address hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
While the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which makes lynching a federal hate crime, is a significant step forward, activists like Jasmine Burney-Clark, founder of Equal Ground, call for more comprehensive measures to protect Black Americans. Burney-Clark rightfully points out that white supremacist attackers are growing more empowered and emboldened and that leaders like DeSantis, who remain silent, are part of the problem.
The Biden administration is also considering reviving the United We Stand anti-hate summit, aiming to combat hate and authoritarianism. Civil rights leaders are urging President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to bring the summit to Florida, where DeSantis has banned Black history curriculums and diversity programs statewide.
In a state teetering on the precipice of authoritarianism, Florida stands at a crossroads, desperately in need of fact-based solutions to tackle the unnerving surge of hate. As our entire nation grapples with these critical issues, one truth roars like thunder: fierce leadership and an unwavering commitment to obliterate hate in all its grotesque forms are not just vital – they are the very lifeblood of our safety and unity.
Governor DeSantis, the time to speak out and take action is now.