‘Shameful and appalling’: Ron DeSantis moves press conference following arrest of well-known community activist

On Tuesday morning, January 4, the office of far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis moved a Jacksonville press conference to a new location after the arrest of community activist Ben Frazier, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Frazier, who is well-known in his area, heads the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville and has been a vocal critic of DeSantis’ COVID-19 policies — and on January 4, he was among the protesters who refused to leave the Duval County Department of Health Building, where the press conference was originally scheduled to be held. The activist, according to Times-Union reporter Dan Scanlan, was told that because he hadn’t been given press credentials, he had to leave. And when he refused to leave, Frazier was arrested for trespassing.

Florida state officials who were scheduled to appear at the press conference included DeSantis; Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Florida’s surgeon general; Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management; and Simone Marstiller, secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

Scanlan reports, “Additional officers were called to the briefing location at the Health Department on North Davis Street after Frazier decried DeSantis’ stance on COVID-19 measures and said he’s been missing in action for the last month. While Frazier and a few other protesters argued the event was public and in a public building, the governor’s staff said it was private and for credentialed media only. After being warned, Frazier was taken away in handcuffs while others were yelling and demanding his rights.”

DeSantis, according to Scanlan, “was not actually present as organizers moved the briefing to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement facility nearby in Jacksonville’s LaVilla neighborhood.”

Located on Florida’s Atlantic coast, Jacksonville is about 165 miles east of Tallahassee, the state capitol, and about 35 miles from the Florida/Georgia state line.

Rep. Angie Nixon, a Jacksonville-based Democrat who serves in the Florida House of Representatives, was highly critical of DeSantis and his staff when she told the Times-Union, “The governor runs and hides when the people demand to be a priority…. Public service is the people’s business, and the governor must answer for his failings. There’s nothing private about America witnessing the suffering that Floridians have endured because of Gov. DeSantis’ people-last strategy. The treatment of Mr. Ben Frazier, a disabled civil-rights activist and member of my community, was shameful and appalling.”

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