A Miami-based activist interrupted a Monday press conference by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, calling attention to government shortcomings that intensified the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
“Shame on you,” he said. “You are an embarrassment... We’re getting record-breaking cases every day, and you are doing nothing.”
The heckler who cried out at DeSantis’ press conference at Jackson Memorial Hospital was Tomas Kennedy, the Florida director of United We Dream, a national immigrant advocacy group.
Public health experts now consider Miami-Dade the new “epicenter” of the pandemic, attributing the surge in cases to the state reopening too early with few restrictions.
On Sunday, Florida reported 15,300 new COVID-19 cases, which set the record for the most cases a single day anywhere in the U.S since the pandemic began. On Monday, Florida’s Department of Health confirmed 12,624 new cases of COVID-19, the second-highest single-day total.
Gimenez said he was waiting to see if existing restaurant restrictions stabilize Miami-Dade’s coronavirus rates before enacting further closures.
“We cannot get swept away in fear,” DeSantis said during the press conference.
Kennedy, a civil rights organizer based in Miami, has experience heckling state leaders. During the 2019 legislative session, Kennedy and a crew of about 150 activists shouted, chanted and unfurled banners inside the Florida House’s legislative chamber and capitol rotunda after lawmakers passed a bill to ban so-called “sanctuary cities” in Florida.
Banners and other large objects are not allowed inside the public galleries.
Kennedy told the Miami Herald at the time that the capitol’s sergeant at arms said he was banned from the public building for a year and can’t come back for the 2020 legislative session.
Before taking his current job, he worked for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign in Washington. Before that, he worked as the legislative director for the Miami-based Florida Immigrant Coalition.
In a video of Monday’s press conference that Kennedy posted to his Twitter account, a security representative approached Kennedy closely and told him he needed to leave. Kennedy asked him not to break social distancing.
Last week, DeSantis hosted a press conference in close quarters in a facility where 18 COVID-positive patients were being treated. Reporters weren’t informed this was the case.
DeSantis did not address Kennedy on Monday. He continued talking about previous concerns that state officials had months ago regarding the pandemic.
“You should resign, Ron DeSantis,” Kennedy said at the end of the video. “Resign.”
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