Community leaders in Florida call on AG Garland to probe hate crimes
A group of political and community leaders met yesterday to call for U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to fully investigate what they say is a rise in racist incidents across Florida.
- Garland has not responded, but the Justice Department reported last year that it was bolstering enforcement of hate crimes, furthering a promise by Garland to focus on civil rights violations.
- The group also called for citizens to be vigilant in reporting hate crimes to both police and the press.
Driving the news: In the past few weeks, a number of events have shocked Florida residents:
- Neo-Nazis waved flags and shouted at cars from overpasses in Orlando.
- A caller threatened to blow up Bethune-Cookman University — one of numerous threats made against historically Black schools across the nation.
- Black students at St. Pete Catholic High say they've been the target of racist graffiti and other acts.
- And last summer, someone spray-painted a swastika and the words "Jews are guilty" on the Holocaust Museum in Downtown St. Pete.
What they're saying: "All of those sound like headlines from 50 years ago, but they're happening now," U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) said during the virtual roundtable.
Of note: Florida also produced more Jan. 6 insurrectionists than any other state, and an event scheduled for Saturday in Clearwater features a gaggle of far-right extremists and conspiracy theorists.
- Christine Quinn, who lost soundly to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor in 2020 and then claimed fraud, bills the event as a "MAGA Revenge Tour" that will "welcome home" Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, just released after a four-month sentence for burning a Black Lives Matter flag at a historic Black church in Washington, D.C.
What's happening: Faith leaders and Adora Obi Nweze, president of Florida NAACP, told Crist that racism and hate have gained a foothold in the public sphere.
- Florida "is a hot-bed of hatred," Bishop Manuel Sykes of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship in St. Pete said. "The Germans called it the zeitgeist. We realize that the spirit of that time is alive and well."
The big picture: Hate crimes in the U.S. in 2020 — the most recent year available — rose to the highest level in more than a decade.
The latest: Crist also took aim at Gov. Ron DeSantis, who recently told Fox News that podcaster Joe Rogan shouldn't have apologized for using the N-word.
- Rogan himself called the slur "the most regretful and shameful thing I've ever had to talk about publicly."
- For DeSantis "not to express that Mr. Rogan should have apologized is outrageous," Crist said. "It is unconscionable. And it is beneath the office that he holds."
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