Congressmember Maxwell Frost of Florida says this weekend’s shooting in Jacksonville, carried out by a white supremacist who targeted Black people at a dollar store, did not happen in isolation. He points to Republican efforts to loosen gun laws and racist rhetoric from party leaders as part of the problem of far-right violence. “All of these things are connected,” says Frost, who also applauded people for booing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at a prayer vigil in Jacksonville. “In moments like these, we have to stand strong on ensuring that leaders who contributed to the problem can’t use our communities as campaign stops.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to bring in Representative Maxwell Alejandro Frost into the conversation. Representative, your response to the racist shootings in Jacksonville? And also, you called on Governor DeSantis to call for a special session to discuss the matter. Your sense of the governor’s role in the past in terms of dealing with issues relating to the Black community?
REP. MAXWELL ALEJANDRO FROST: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for having me on.
And it was just sad. Organizers, advocates, community leaders, clergy, folks across the state, for years — for years — have been pleading with the governor to do many things, but two things in relation to this tragedy that happened in Jacksonville. Number one, act on gun violence. In a country where the leading cause of death for a child is to be shot to death, we need to do something. In a country where we lose a hundred people a day due to gun violence, we need to do something about the problem. And unfortunately, what we’re seeing, especially in the Republican Party now, is not only do they not want to do anything about it, but they want to say there’s no way to fix the problem, which I completely dismiss. That’s not why we run for office as elected officials.
The second thing, this governor consistently embraces and champions this far-right, fascist movement that is growing across the country, but really Florida and Texas, I believe, are the two epicenters of. And that movement gives credence and gives power to racist bigots like the murderer who went into that store and murdered three people and hunted three people down because of the color of their skin. All of these things are connected. When that shooter, months before that, would turn on the news, weeks before that, would turn on the news to see that kids in Jacksonville, middle schoolers, would learn that Black who were enslaved benefited, had personal benefit, from their slavery, that gives people credence. That pushes bigotry and racial hatred into people.
And so, you know, I saw those videos and those pictures of the governor at the funeral, at the memorial. And I was tweeting about this data. I have been in so many communities across this entire nation just after a mass shooting and just after a shooting. I’ve been doing gun violence work since I was 15 years old. And I get the want to, no matter who it is, have that unity. I understand it. But I have to say — I have to say, in moments like these, we have to stand strong on ensuring that leaders who contributed to the problem can’t use our communities as campaign stops. And that’s exactly what the governor did. And I’m happy that activists and organizers booed him and yelled to him, “You’re part of this! You’re part of the reason this happened!” because it’s nothing but the truth.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you’re calling on the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into what’s happening in Florida?
REP. MAXWELL ALEJANDRO FROST: Yes. Yes, I am. This is very important, too. We, as Democrats, as an organizer, we’ve got to take steps back and look at: Where is our power now? We understand that with this far-right, authoritarian leader as our governor, we need to look at power in other places, people power on the ground, but also the fact that Democrats, we hold the administration. We have the White House and President Joe Biden. And I want to see the Department of Justice do a lot more, using every tool in their toolbox, to investigate not just this specific incident, but everything going on in Florida.
And, you know, myself, I sent a letter with Congressman Jamie Raskin to Chair Comer of the Oversight Committee, the committee I sit on, and we asked the chair: We need to have hearings on what’s going on in the state of Florida, because this anti-democratic governor — it’s not just, you know, in the state of Florida; it’s spreading throughout the entire country. We saw what happened in Tennessee with the Tennessee 3. It’s this far-right movement that seeks to subvert democracy to consolidate power. And it’s important that we talk about it.
The chair completely, you know, did not respond to us, so I held my own hearing. I put my own hearing together, brought Andrew Warren, the state attorney who was taken out of office. That happened again with Monique Worrell. We brought state Representative Anna Eskamani. We brought a substitute teacher that was fired for simply posting footage of empty bookshelves because of the book ban. And we brought Jasmine Burney-Clark, who runs Equal Ground, that works on educating people across the state and fighting for democracy across the state and voting rights.
And what we found in that hearing and through our research is the governor is targeting municipalities, counties and people across the entire state that disagree with him. And he’s subverting democracy, removing them from office, and we can’t stand for it. All of these things are connected. We need the Department of Justice to look into the racial hatred, the hatred of Black people, hatred of immigrants, going on in the state of Florida.
AMY GOODMAN: Democratic Congressmember Maxwell Alejandro Frost, we want to thank you so much for being with us, the youngest member of the U.S. Congress, former national organizing director of March for Our Lives, which was formed by survivors of the Parkland shooting in Florida. And, Rodney Hurst, civil rights leader from Jacksonville, all the best during this storm. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.