A protester interrupted Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s press conference Monday evening, standing up and accusing him of “doing nothing” and having no plan as the state continually sees record-breaking cases of COVID-19.
Thomas Kennedy, an immigrant turned activist, shouted at the governor through a mask as a few in the room slowly ushered him out while he made his accusations saying, “You are an embarrassment. We’re getting record-breaking cases every day and you are doing nothing. You’re falsifying information and you are misleading the public over 4,000 people have died, and you are blaming the protesters. You guys have no plan, and you’re doing nothing. Shame on you. Shame on you.”
Kennedy urged DeSantis to resign as he was ushered out of the room after heckling the governor in the 43-second video that Kennedy posted on his Twitter page.
Here is what you need to know:
1. Kennedy Said He Called Out DeSantis Because He Wants People to ‘Speak Out & Challenge Power’
Kennedy was quick to post the video he took while he accused the governor of handing the pandemic badly. He said he did it because he wants to see more people speak out.
In a tweet, Kennedy said, “I hope people continue to speak out and challenge power. Like Frederick Douglass said, power concedes nothing without a demand. Your voice matters. Use it. We deserve better.”
Kennedy is based in Miami where the state’s COVID-19 outbreak has been among the worst. While early on Gov. DeSantis directed for the closure of much of the state’s non-essential businesses, once Florida started phasing re-opening the governor has said he will not go back, even as cases continue to rise to record-breaking numbers.
Yet he did back peddle in June, ordering the closure of bars throughout the state.
2. DeSantis Looked Flustered But Continued With His Planned Briefing About Testing Issues as Kennedy Shouted at Him
NowThis tweeted a video of DeSantis as Kennedy was yelling his accusations at the governor. DeSantis did not respond to the protestor but clearly looked flustered and got quiet for a moment before while Kennedy said his piece before continuing to speak about issues with testing in the state.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, DeSantis was concerned that Florida residents are not getting test results fast enough, sometimes taking up to seven days for results. He said the state would add expedited testing options for people with symptoms in Orange County and South Florida, where cases have been among the highest.
In a July 12 tweet, Kennedy said he was one of the people who’s test results had still not come back after six days.
Heavy has reached out to the Gov. DeSantis to see if he has anything to say about Kennedy’s accusations that he has no plan to slow the spread of coronavirus and that he is misleading the public, but a reply has not yet come.
3. Kennedy Is an Immigration Activist Who Came to the US From Argentina as a Child
In his bio on Changewire, it says Kennedy came to the U.S when he was 10-years-old with his parents, originally moving to New Jersey before settling in Miami.
“After living as an undocumented immigrant for over a decade and seeing the daily struggles his parents overcame to have a better life, Thomas became involved in student activism and immigration reform advocacy,” according to the bio.
His Twitter page says he is the Florida Coordinator for United We Dream, an organization led by immigrant youth which empowers them to advocate for themselves and others in the community.
According to the organization’s website, they “create welcoming spaces for young people – regardless of immigration status – to support, engage, and empower them to make their voice heard and win!”
Kennedy was also a Bernie Sanders supporter and is affiliated with the Florida Immigrant Coalition and formerly the Service Employees International Union, according to his Twitter bio.
4. A Florida State Represenative Said That Hundreds of Thousands of Floridians Share Kennedy’s Frustrations
Shortly after Kennedy’s one-man protest, Orlando area Representative Anna Eskamani, who has also been critical of DeSantis’ handling issues around the pandemic, especially the way the state handled unemployment claims, tweeted, “Thomas’s frustration is one that hundreds of thousands of Floridians share.”
While many are looking to state leaders to make directives that could potentially slow the spread of COVID-19 in Florida, which is now the epicenter of the viral spread in the world, DeSantis says that he has to balance the economy with safety and does not want to close businesses again. Instead, he and the Florida Surgeon General are asking the public to do their part in slowing the spread.
They along with Florida’s Health Department launched a messaging campaign about avoiding the 3 C’s — crowded places, closed spaces and close-contact settings.
With the Governor and the education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, mandating all schools in the state be opened next month, critics, including Florida’s Democratic Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, point out that those 3-C’s describe school settings.
5. Kennedy Tweeted That People Should ‘Choose Their Fighter’ Accompanied by a Side-By-Side Photo of He and DeSantis
Kennedy is very critical of Florida’s governor, calling him incompetent and saying he falsified data and then tried to cover it up. Responses on Twitter show overwhelming support for Kennedy’s actions at the press conference, though one person asked, “Thomas what would you like DeSantis to do differently. What is he lying about specifically?”
Another Twitter user said, “Loved this. Thank you! He’s been rambling on like an old jukebox since March, yet saying nothing. Of course, doing nothing. Everyone just sits there like tranquilized mental patients.”
One Twitter user thinks Kennedy may have started something, and that others may start speaking out more. He wrote, “Good job. It’s past time to start yelling at these gaslighting politicians in public. I suspect you’ll have people spontaneously joining you soon.”