Why Ron DeSantis Was Booed at a Vigil for Jacksonville Shooting Victims

Black Floridians see the shooting as a direct result of the governor’s policies.

John Raoux/AP

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“Black history matters!” “Your policies caused this!” “These deaths are on your hands!”

These were just some of the remarks that were shouted at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis when he appeared at a Sunday vigil dedicated to the three victims of the racist shooting at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida. As my colleague Julia Lurie wrote, the white gunman, who killed himself after the attack, had been armed with a handgun and an assault-style rifle with swastika markings when he opened fire, fatally shooting three Black people: Angela Michelle Carr, Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., and Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion. It was later revealed that on the same day, the shooter had also driven to Edward Waters University, a historically Black university near the Dollar General, where campus security asked him to leave. 

In a statement on Saturday, DeSantis condemned the shooter, calling him a “scumbag” who “took the coward’s way out.” He also directed $1.1 million to help EWU ramp up security on campus. But many in the Black community have rejected DeSantis’ overtures, pointing to his near-obsessive work as governor to eliminate diversity and inclusion efforts from Florida’s public school system, something he frequently brags about as he attempts to win the Republican presidential nomination. Those efforts include implementing policies to defund DEI efforts at Florida’s state colleges, and defending the state’s new Board of Education provision that implied Black people benefitted from slavery. The racist shooting has also renewed scrutiny of DeSantis’ push to loosen gun restrictions in the state, which includes signing a bill into law that allows gun owners to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. 

It’s this record that prompted the NAACP in May, alongside several other social justice organizations, to issue a formal travel advisory warning Black people against traveling to Florida because of what they blasted as the DeSantis administration’s all-out attack on Black Americans.” 

“We cannot sit idly by as our history is being erased, as our lives are being devalued, as wokeness is being attacked,” said Florida state Rep. Angie Nixon at a separate vigil. “Because let’s be clear: that is red meat to a base of voters. That is a dog whistle. That wokeness that they want to die is Black people and it was evident yesterday by what happened.”

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