NAACP, Latinx, labor, and LGBTQ rights groups warn against visiting Florida
The policies of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are causing groups to boycott the state. | Robert F. Bukaty/AP

WASHINGTON—You’ve heard of State Department “travel advisories” for people planning to visit various foreign countries? “Don’t go there. It’s dangerous,” is either implicit or explicit. Well, things are so bad for people of color and gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender people that three top civil rights groups have issued travel advisories…for Florida.

In so many words, what they’re saying is “Don’t go there. It’s dangerous for you,” thanks to radical right Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Trumpite majorities in the GOP-gerrymandered state legislature. Indeed, a carousel banner on the NAACP’s website is explicit: “Florida is dangerous for Black Americans.”

When DeSantis and his legislative lemmings weren’t trashing Florida’s teachers and their unions—which is a whole other story—they were stripping away rights and constitutional protections for anyone they hate who’s “different” than their predominantly white male rightist backers, the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Human Rights Campaign all reported.

Thus, the travel advisories.

LULAC says the warning applies to natives as well as migrants into the state. Equality Florida, LULAC’s state affiliate, joined the warning. And it’s a physical threat, too. Not only have DeSantis and his acolytes turned the haters loose legally, but they’re freely letting the bigots arm themselves.

That’s because the governor and lawmakers also enacted pro-weapons laws–in a state which saw the first high-profile killing of an unarmed Black man, Trayvon Martin, by a Neighborhood Watch “volunteer,” a decade ago and the worst anti-gay massacre in the U.S.

George Zimmerman shot Martin a decade ago, all because Martin, a Black teen wearing a hoodie, looked “suspicious” while eating a bag of snacks in a predominantly white neighborhood. Zimmerman cited a right-wing “stand your ground” pro-gun law in his defense.

And seven years ago, on June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen, 29, shot up the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The club, with a large gay clientele, was hosting a “Latin Night.” Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 in a three hour-spree before police shot him.

With a record like that, and hate spewing out of the mouths of DeSantis, who’s using  racism in what he calls an “anti-woke” campaign to jump-start his run for next year’s Republican presidential nomination, LULAC President Domingo Garcia, NAACP Executive Director Derrick Johnson, and Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson are all telling people “don’t go to Florida.”

Johnson, who now runs the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights group, said its Florida state board asked the national board to issue the travel advisory condemning DeSantis and his hate.

“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color,” the national NAACP board, led by Johnson, said on May 20.

“Let me be clear: Failing to teach an accurate representation of the horrors and inequalities that Black Americans have faced and continue to face is a disservice to students and a dereliction of duty to all,” Johnson added after DeSantis and the lawmakers also banned teaching Black history in Florida classrooms and eliminated diversity and equality and inclusion programs in state universities.

And to make sure professors couldn’t protest except at the risk of their jobs, DeSantis and the lawmakers virtually abolished tenure, too.

“Under the leadership of DeSantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals our union was founded upon. He should know democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We’re not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation,” Johnson declared.

A DeSantis spokesman told CBS the NAACP’s travel advisory “is nothing more than a stunt.”

“Because of Ron DeSantis and his frenzied appeal to extremists, LGBTQ+ people in Florida are finding themselves in a state of emergency every single day,” Robinson said. “Since the day he took office, DeSantis has weaponized his position to weave bigotry, hate, and discrimination into public law for his own political gain. We see it as our duty to join Equality Florida–and LULAC and the NAACP–to provide guidance to our community.”

Stops short of complete boycott

While stopping short of demanding a complete boycott of Florida, Robinson made clear that individuals and groups who alter travel plans, decide against homebuying, switch college enrollments and more “should make clear why they’re not heading to Florida.” And even people who come “should speak up and speak out in vocal opposition to these dangerous policies.”

“And to all of our friends and family in Florida, we stand with you and with Equality Florida. We’ll keep working hard to make Florida feel more like the home you deserve it to be,” Robinson promised.

DeSantis is on “a sweeping anti-immigrant, anti-Christian family rampage, harming the Florida economy and further marginalizing immigrant communities,” LULAC says, under the laws that take effect on July 1. Be especially careful in police encounters, Garcia adds.

“We do not doubt that if Abuelita or Tia is with us and we are profiled, DeSantis’ enforcement regulations will treat us like criminals, transporting a dangerous person who only wanted to visit family or enjoy Disneyworld,” Garcia notes.

That would be in keeping with another DeSantis policy: He’s spent $12 million, and counting, on transporting Latino and Latina migrants into Florida to other states and cities in the North.

Lydia Medrano, LULAC vice president for the Southeast, described “a rampage of fear” among Floridian Latinos: “Food banks report witnessing individuals seeking one last food donation as they prepare to flee Florida. Families are torn apart as some members choose to stay while others have to leave, foreseeing worsening conditions for immigrants.

Garcia also invoked the New Testament, calling the new law “immoral and cruel,” lacking in “Christian compassion for the needy, sick, and injured, the least among us.

“Matthew 25:31 reads, ‘For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you invited me in.’ These are words that most Americans believe in. But it looks like DeSantis wants to kick out the immigrant stranger, imprison those who provide shelter and food, or even give a ride to an immigrant!” Garcia adds.

Garcia predicted the hatred DeSantis and the legislature unleashed would boomerang economically, with agriculture, health care, and other industries already hurting for workers in Florida as the people of color they normally rely on either flee the state, don’t seek jobs, or apply for employment elsewhere.

In one big economic development case, DeSantis’s homophobia already has ricocheted against him.

The state’s largest private employer, the Disney Corp., spoke out against one his most-notorious hate measures: The “Don’t Say Gay,” law. DeSantis imposed it on the schools, over opposition from Florida’s teachers’ unions.

In retaliation for Disney’s criticism, the thin-skinned governor ordered lawmakers to abolish Disney’s special self-governing taxing district around its theme parks around Orlando. Disney’s board promptly dumped plans for a $1 billion eastern headquarters complex, which would employ 2,000 people.

A DeSantis GOP presidential competitor, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, no progressive herself, promptly invited Disney to set up shop in her state, the nation’s most rabidly anti-union.

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.