‘Authoritarian Movement’: Florida Democrats Call Out DeSantis’ Attacks on Freedoms

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the North Carolina Republican Party Convention in Greensboro, N.C., Friday, June 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

By Giselle Balido

June 23, 2023

Gen Z U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost convened the meeting after the Republican majority ignored his calls for congressional investigations of state governments that they say trample democratic ideals.

U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost and other Democratic Florida lawmakers and activists had scathing words for Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday, calling him a “fascist” who is leading an “authoritarian movement” in the state and “abusing his power.” 

“We’re here because the third-largest state in our union, home to around 22 million people, has an extremist governor and state Legislature that are dismantling democracy before our very eyes,” Rep. Frost said during an unofficial hearing on “Anti-Democratic Abuses in Florida.” 

The Gen Z Orlando Democrat called the meeting to address the increasingly restrictive laws signed into law by Gov. DeSantis, including bans that limit how schools teach about race, sexuality and gender identity, among other subjects.  

Frost said he convened the meeting — which was also attended by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Katie Porter, D-Calif., among other Democratic lawmakers — after the Republican majority ignored his calls for congressional investigations of state governments that infringe on democratic ideals.

RELATED: Florida Second in Nation With Most School Books Banned

During the two hour meeting held in the Capitol Visitor Center, the anti-democratic drift in the Sunshine State was compared to a “malignant tumor” that threatens to spread all over the land as DeSantis runs for president in 2024. 

“This malignant tumor has to be addressed and cut out or it will continue to grow and spread and decimate freedoms all across the land,” said House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries. 

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat and a strong vocal opponent of the governor, testified that the state government has turned into a restrictive apparatus controlled by the Governor and GOP supermajorities in the Legislature.

“They have consolidated between the three branches of government, eroded personal freedoms, attacked public education, threatened our economy, and then preempted local government authority, which has stripped our neighborhoods and our municipalities of their ability to solve everyday problems,” Eskamani said. 

The Mark of Fascism

Democrats and activists strongly denounced DeSantis’ legislation that allows for the removal of books from school libraries and those, that according to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, punish officials who don’t offer him their “unquestioning obedience.” Schultz, the Democratic Co-Chair of the Florida congressional delegation, said DeSantis’ tactics bear all the marks of fascism.

For his part, Brian Covey, a former substitute teacher who lost his job the day after he posted a video of a school’s empty bookshelves on his Twitter, said he “couldn’t believe this was the reality of my kids’ education.” 

RELATED: ‘Worse Than Trump’: Rep. Maxwell Frost Speaks Out About Ron DeSantis in a One-on-One Interview

Others who spoke at the hearing included Equal Ground founder Jasmine Burney-Clark, whose group challenged the numerous changes to voting laws  that disproportionately affect minorities. 

Florida, she said, has become “a breeding ground for voter suppression laws.” 

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connelly, a Virginia Democrat, didn’t mince words and compared DeSantis to authoritarian leaders like Chile’s Augusto Pinochet and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.

Rep. Frost overwhelmingly agreed with this sentiment. He too has publicly described DeSantis as a fascist. 

“I don’t believe that hyperbole [should play a part] in politics. It’s something we see the Republican party do all the time when they call Democrats communists,” Frost told Floricua during a one-on-one interview. “[But] I encourage people to look up the definition of what fascism is. It’s an authoritarian right-wing leader that uses their power to silence people who are working in opposition, or people who disagree. And that’s what we see from Governor DeSantis right now.” 

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Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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