Kennedy says DeSantis is “always being taken through back doors, and there's a perimeter established as soon as he enters a place. … He doesn't really meet people. You can tell the guy really likes to be in control of the situation.”
But the worst of it for Kennedy began when he confronted the Republican governor in July 2020 about his abysmal handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not long after, Kennedy was stopped by police while parking in a public parking lot to enter a DeSantis press conference. He was made to get out of his car, detained for about 30 minutes, issued a trespassing warning, and was told “they don’t want you here.” He was then escorted out.
He said he began then to suspect that police had his vehicle information. So Kennedy asked Grant Stern, the executive editor of Occupy Democrats, who has also been famously ejected from a joint press conference in Florida, to do some investigating for him and pull any records he could find.
Stern uncovered an 83-page surveillance dossier on Kennedy compiled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). As Kennedy writes in an op-ed for Latino Rebels, the file “opened a criminal intelligence case against me without a criminal predicate. That’s when they started surveilling my social media while sharing my name, photo, and vehicle information with other police agencies in the state, in addition to other personal information.”
The document, highlighted in Kennedy’s lawsuit against DeSantis, makes note that Kennedy has “no history of violence.”
There’s no evidence that points directly to DeSantis’ team for directing the FDLE to create the file on Kennedy, but the governor’s office has blocked Kennedy from the press mailing list, and recently both he and Stern were ejected from a DeSantis press conference at Miami Dade College before it began.
In August 2021, Stern was violently pushed out of a DeSantis press conference in Miami after asking attempting to ask Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy a question about his support for the Jan. 6 House select committee.
Stern says he’s suffered a painful knee injury, requiring 26 doctor appointments over a six-month period, after security guards pushed him out of the room.
“I feel like there's a fear factor there that these people know that I'm going to dig up something really damaging about them or just with my questions cause their frail narratives to fall apart. Which is true, by the way,” Stern says.
Both Stern and Kennedy implied they were disappointed that no mainstream media journalists have stood up for them.
“They're afraid that they're going to lose their jobs if they stand up for somebody like me. It's 100% not even in question. I talk to them. They don't say that, but I know these people. I've known these people for years. Some of these people are in the room alongside us. … I mean, it should be front-page news when a journalist gets kicked out. Look at [Univision anchor] Jorge Ramos. Is this anything different than when Jorge Ramos wanted to ask Donald Trump questions?” Stern says.
Veteran journalist, community organizer, and member of the National Association of Black Journalists Ben Frazier was also ejected from a DeSantis press event held in Jacksonville, Florida.
Frazier, 71, tells Daily Kos that, the day he was asked to leave the event and later arrested, he knew DeSantis would be attending and wanted to ask him questions about his COVID-19 policies as they related to Black Floridians.
“I wanted to confront him and I knew it would be acrimonious, but so be it. That's what happens with regards to elected officials of the people and the Fourth Estate, the press. That's the way it's supposed to happen. I didn't think that they would stop me from asking questions, but apparently, as soon as I came through the door, they started trying to stop me,” Frazier says.
Frazier, who uses a wheelchair, explains that DeSantis’ officials asked for his press credentials, and when he didn’t provide them, the police arrested and then detained him for about 40 minutes. He was never charged.
“I've covered countless news conferences all of my life. When I say all of my life, I mean I've been doing this since 1970. And nowhere in the United States of America have I received this kind of treatment. … I mean, come on. I worked in Washington, D.C. during Watergate, and Richard Nixon didn't kick people out,” Frazier says.
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