NAACP Warns Against Travel to Florida Under DeSantis | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

DeSantis Media Team Spars with NAACP After Group's Florida Travel Advisory

The DeSantis press team is claiming the NAACP travel advisory is a publicity tactic to put pressure on Florida's tourism industry.
Then-congressman Ron DeSantis speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
Then-congressman Ron DeSantis speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
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The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued a formal travel advisory for Florida over the weekend, alleging Gov. Ron DeSantis has created an environment that is "openly hostile to African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals."

"On a seeming quest to silence African-American voices, the governor and the state of Florida have shown that African Americans are not welcome in the state of Florida," the advisory reads. "Due to this sustained, blatant, relentless, and systemic attack on democracy and civil rights, the NAACP hereby issues a travel advisory to African Americans, and other people of color regarding the hostility towards African Americans in Florida."

The civil rights organization's advisory comes in response to the DeSantis administration blocking an AP African American studies course, a wave of book banning across the state, and the recently signed legislation that defunds diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at public universities.

"Once again, hate-inspired state leaders have chosen to put politics over people," Leon Russell, chair of the NAACP Board of Directors, said in a statement released alongside the May 20 advisory.

The DeSantis media team bit back, with the governor's press secretary Jeremy Redfern posting images of DeSantis calling the NAACP's move a political stunt when it was proposed this past March.

Press secretary Bryan Griffin meanwhile called the advisory "noise," claiming that DeSantis helped usher in "unprecedented success (borne out in tourism, domestic in-migration, job numbers), deep red electoral shift, and the most significant conservative legislative reform package ever."

After Christian Ziegler, chairman of the Florida Republican Party, sarcastically offered to help the NAACP chair with moving costs to leave the state, Florida Senate hopeful and former State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith retorted that Ziegler was proving the NAACP's claim that Florida is openly hostile to Black people.

In March, the NAACP's Florida chapter had called on the national board to caution people about traveling to Florida.

"We will not allow our rights and history to be held hostage for political grandstanding," Russell said in the May statement. "The NAACP proudly fights against the malicious attacks in Florida, against Black Americans. I encourage my fellow Floridians to join in this fight to protect ourselves and our democracy."

The NAACP is the latest civil rights group to warn against travel to the Sunshine State.

On May 17, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) issued a similar warning for Hispanic visitors after DeSantis signed a bill that requires private businesses in the state with 25 or more employees to verify new workers' employment eligibility through E-Verify, a system that checks whether an employee is eligible to work in the United States. The law also requires hospitals that accept Medicaid to ask patients if they are U.S. citizens or "lawfully" in the country.

"The actions taken by Gov. DeSantis have created a shadow of fear within communities across the state," said Lydia Medrano, LULAC vice president for the southeast region.

LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida issued a travel advisory in April, "warning of the risks posed to the health, safety, and freedom of those" traveling or relocating to Florida. The advisory came as several bills that the group deemed to be bigoted and anti-LGBTQ moved through the state legislature on their way to DeSantis' desk.

Florida's tourism industry brought in an estimated 137 million visitors in 2022, making it one of the state's primary economic drivers. In 2021, visitors to Florida were estimated to have generated more than $100 billion for Florida's economy.
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