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DeSantis’ latest proposal would harm the Black community | Letters
Here’s what readers are saying in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, center, is applauded during his state of the state address to a joint session on Tuesday Jan. 14, 2020, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)
Gov. Ron DeSantis, center, is applauded during his state of the state address to a joint session on Tuesday Jan. 14, 2020, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) [ STEVE CANNON | AP ]
Published Nov. 29, 2020

DeSantis proposal: Broaden stand your ground | Nov. 11

This would harm the Black community

The draft text of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ first piece of proposed legislation since COVID-19 began to pummel Florida is finally circulating. The Defeat COVID-19 and Renew Florida Act? No — The Combatting Violence, Disorder, and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act.

DeSantis’ proposed legislation is his reaction to the protests this summer after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. In September, DeSantis, flanked by Florida sheriffs, announced that he would be proposing legislation to stop “professional agitators” from looting and protect our police officers. The state, of course, has plenty of power to do both already.

Instead, the bill, which hasn’t formally been filed yet, is about criminalizing protest and protecting those who would do harm to protesters. And the legislation is targeted particularly at Black protesters. Rather than look for ways to support these constituents — or any of his constituents — at a moment of great need, DeSantis’ first piece of proposed legislation since the pandemic began is designed only to add harm on top of harm.

Most of the bill’s specifics are mind-blowingly foolish — and cruelly unnecessary to boot. One provision in the draft bill, for example, would expand Florida’s stand your ground law, justifying the actions of individuals who shoot protesters acting in any way that causes the “interruption or impairment” of a business. So would a shop owner be justified in shooting a protester scribbling graffiti on a shop door?

DeSantis responded to protests that sought to protect Black lives by seeking to incarcerate more Black people and shield those who would do violence against Black protesters. The bill racks up criminal penalties for protesters and subtracts liability from those who would harm those protesters. This, at heart, is what the bill is intended to do — make Black Floridians more vulnerable, especially when they protest.

We need legislation that responds to COVID-19 and rebuilds our state’s economy. But DeSantis’ bill has nothing to do with the pandemic. It’s not legislation to support our struggling school system. Not to increase access to health care. Not to provide businesses with assistance, increase access to testing or establish a plan for future pandemic preparedness.

It is a bill that punishes protesters and protects those who do violence to protesters. And, although the governor has been careful to avoid saying as much, it’s a bill that seeks purposefully to harm our state’s Black community. This is a bill that has no business on our legislative agenda — least of all now.

Adora Obi Nweze

The writer is the president of the NAACP Florida State Conference.

AstraZeneca is third to announce positive COVID-19 vaccine trials | Nov. 24

Give a big thanks to Trump

We now have at least three vaccines about to be released with high effectiveness. Besides the companies that developed them, we have only one man to thank for their record development. And it is not President-elect Joe Biden.

John Spengler, Spring Hill

What do Tampa Bay Republicans think about who won the election? | Nov. 25

Had Clinton not conceded...

The comments from the local Republican constabulary are interesting and extremely expected concerning the need for their two-time loser (of the popular vote) making a concession speech. In the event it slipped some minds, President Donald Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million in 2016 and over 7 million, and counting, this year.

Could your interviewer return to this group of diehards and get an honest answer regarding their opinion had Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton failed to immediately concede in 2016? Had that happened, there would have been riots around the country!

Milton Bronson, Clearwater

‘America is back:’ Biden team emerges | Nov. 25

This is fourth-grade stuff

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says that Joe Biden is going to have problems getting his Cabinet picks approved by the Senate. It is really sad that our politics has degraded to the level of fourth-grade pettiness.

Barry Kreiling, Brooksville

Those who don’t have food during the holidays

Food insecurity occurs every day

While the number of food insecure people in Tampa Bay has more than doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic began, food insecurity has been a long-standing problem in the region and the nation. And it’s not only destitute folk down on their luck that are affected by food insecurity. In addition to vulnerable children, teens, military veterans and older adults, there is an increasing number of food insecure working families who are experiencing food insecurity because of low wages and the high cost of living. As a University of South Florida professor, I am concerned about the rising numbers of food insecure college students. For example, a recent national study found that 39 percent of college students reported being food insecure. At USF, nearly 46 percent of students surveyed reported having limited access to food of enough quality.

A multitude of studies have shown that chronic food insecurity is associated with poor physical and mental health. Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence indicating that food insecurity adversely affects student success and job performance. Finally, researchers have documented that the cost of eliminating food insecurity pales in comparison to the amount of money spent on treating health issues related to food insecurity.

While we are reminded of the plight of our food insecure friends, neighbors and relatives during the holidays, the problem is long-standing and wide ranging. Much more needs to be done to address the social and economic inequities that create food insecurity to eliminate it and create a healthier and more just Tampa Bay.

David Himmelgreen

The writer is the director of the University of South Florida’s Center for the Advancement of Food Security and Healthy Communities.