This story originally appeared in Truthout on Aug. 28, 2023. It is shared here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 (CC BY-SA) license
On Sunday, Florida governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis (R) appeared in Jacksonville at a prayer vigil for victims of a racially motivated attack, where he was booed and heckled by members of the audience who said that his policies played a role in fomenting the racist violence that occurred one day prior.
Around 200 people attended the vigil, one day after a white man shot and killed three shoppers at a Dollar General in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Police later recovered racist manifestos showcasing the shooter’s deep hatred toward Black people. The shooter, who was armed with an AR-15 style assault rifle and a Glock handgun during the attack, had also drawn swastikas on his weapons, NBC News reported.
The shooter killed himself upon police’s arrival at the scene.
Video of the vigil shows that members of the crowd booed throughout DeSantis’s speech, with several people shouting that the governor’s presence at the event wasn’t wanted due to his policies that sought to limit the accurate teaching of Black history and his self-proclaimed “war on wokeness.”
“You’re not welcome here, these deaths are on your hands!” one person shouted while DeSantis stood at the podium.
“Your policies caused this!” another said.
Ju’Coby Pittman, a city councilwoman who represents the area where the shooting took place, pleaded with attendees to stop the heckling. “It ain’t about parties today. A bullet don’t know a party,” she said.
Several social media users and political pundits placed partial blame on the governor for the act of violence, reporting from Newsweek shows. Critics noted that DeSantis signed legislation earlier this year that loosened gun laws, including a bill allowing people to carry concealed weapons without a permit, which went into effect in July. DeSantis also fueled anti-Black hatred in the state through his “anti-woke” agenda, they said.
State Rep. Angie Nixon (D) criticized DeSantis on MSNBC on Sunday.
“At the end of the day, the governor has blood on his hands,” Nixon said. “He has had an attack, an all-out attack on the Black community with his woke policies, which we know very well, was nothing more than a dog whistle to get folks riled up in the way in which it just happened yesterday.”
Nixon went on to say that her “blood” was “literally boiling” when she heard DeSantis’s statements at the vigil. “He is one of the causes of this,” she added.