Real leaders cultivate hope, not fear.

September 16, 2020

Here’s my response, as published in today’s Florida Times Union, to Rep. Jason Fischer’s race-baiting, fearmongering editorial, to which I will not provide a link.

Column: Fischer unfairly linked protesters with rioters

In his Sunday guest column, Rep. Jason Fischer’s writes “Pandering to the woke will not protect you”—just the kind of race-baiting and fearmongering that should shame us all.

Fischer deliberately conflates peaceful protesters with people who commit crimes. He would have readers believe that all of us who seek more police transparency are criminals. His writing aims to activate political dog-whistles to the ignorant and the fearful, those who would aim guns at our children from their front lawns, when they could just as easily choose to hand out bottled waters.

Rep. Fischer, there’s still time to get on the right side of history. Several prominent Jacksonville Republicans have publicly denounced Trump, among them, former mayor John Delaney. The number of government officials and other associates close to Trump who have repudiated him is astounding. The number of criminal charges and indictments brought against Trump’s cronies breaks recent historical records.

Sadly, those who still support him are left with only one thing on their side: fear. Trump’s record of incompetence and divisiveness speaks for itself. Nearly 200,000 people have died on his watch from COVID-19, in the wake of his mendacity and reckless inaction. The American people are suffering in ways not seen since the Great Depression. Thinly veiled, racist fearmongering is intended to distract voters from Trump’s colossal failure of leadership.

As our nation grapples with what author Toni Morrison labeled, “America’s original sin,” most of Jacksonville is finally facing up to our racist history. One of the bloodiest moments in the Civil Rights movement, Ax Handle Saturday, finally garnered the local and national acknowledgement history demands.

As Trump fanned the flames of hatred, we in Jacksonville came together to mourn that infamous day. As Trump’s inciteful rhetoric emboldened a teenaged white supremacist to commit homicides, activists in Jacksonville went to work.

The people Mr. Fischer would characterize as criminals have sat in rooms with our Sheriff, our State Attorney, and other officials to help ensure police enforce the United States Constitution in a manner that protects everyone. Their lawsuit settlement could serve as an instructional template for police departments across the nation.

A tremendous amount of work remains, but here in Jacksonville, it’s underway. Fischer’s letter demonstrates a refusal to understand the role of peaceful protests in our democracy, and insults the work of Jacksonville’s real leaders. 

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