A press conference about the coronavirus held yesterday at Jackson Memorial Hospital became reminiscent of a Game of Thrones episode when an activist yelled "Shame!" at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
The remarks came from Thomas Kennedy, a former campaign staffer for Bernie Sanders and a progressive activist in Miami.
"Shame on you! You are an embarrassment! You are an embarrassment! We are getting record-breaking cases every day, and you are doing nothing," Kennedy shouted at DeSantis.
He then turned his attention to Gimenez.
"Over 4,000 people have died, and you are blaming the protesters," he said, referring to the mayor's baseless claim that Black Lives Matter demonstrations led to a countywide spike in COVID-19 cases.
As a staffer swooped in to lead Kennedy out of the room, the activist got in a few more jabs.
"You guys have no plan, and you're doing nothing. Shame on you!" Kennedy yelled before being ushered away. "You should resign, Ron DeSantis! Resign!"
Since Kennedy's outburst, the hashtag "#RonDeSantisResign" has begun trending on Twitter.
I just interrupted a press conference in Miami-Dade to let governor @RonDeSantisFL and @MayorGimenez know they are an embarrassment to FL and that their incompetence and lack of planning has resulted in the current public health crisis.— Thomas Kennedy (@tomaskenn) July 13, 2020
4,381 people have died so far in FL pic.twitter.com/q6SozHfT8o
Kennedy tells New Times he went to the press conference to speak his mind about the bungled pandemic response in Florida.
"[The governor] started speaking and I waited a minute or so, and he started coloring a positive image and I got really mad. I got up and spoke up, I raised my voice a little," Kennedy says.
Kennedy says that in his opinion, neither DeSantis nor Gimenez has the public's best interest at heart. He also believes their pandemic policies have been politically motivated, with DeSantis buddying up to President Donald Trump and Gimenez in the midst of a congressional campaign.
"If we would've done what we needed to do in April, we would've been able to be like other states. But here we are with more business closures, record cases, an unemployment-benefits system that has been a complete mess," Kennedy says.
DeSantis has been criticized over the past few months for his response to COVID-19 and for being dismissive of rising case counts and deaths in Florida, which is now being called the epicenter of the pandemic. As of today, Florida has seen 291,629 cases of COVID-19, including 4,514 deaths.
Kennedy also had harsh words for Miami-Dade's county mayor.
"Gimenez — aside from being a corrupt individual who has been in the pockets of developers and elevated his sons to positions of power — he's just been a Trump loyalist," Kennedy says. "There's been no plan. Every decision is made on an impulse."
Gimenez has certainly been ahead of DeSantis on the coronavirus response and more strict about safety measures, even threatening to fine people for not following the county's facemask mandate. But some of his orders have been considered haphazard and reactionary. Gimenez reopened Miami-Dade restaurants back in May while the virus was still present, only to close them again last week amid surging cases and violations of social distancing rules.
So far, DeSantis has refused to issue a statewide mask mandate, leaving that job to county-level leaders like Gimenez. The governor has also touted the unproven medication hydroxychloroquine, promoted by Trump but considered unsafe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
After months of extensive coverage of the pandemic, DeSantis went as far as to claim the media "liked" that COVID-19 cases were rising, drawing ire from local reporters.
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The governor also fired Rebekah Jones, the data scientist responsible for the state's coronavirus dashboard, which is updated daily with case counts and deaths. Jones, who says she was fired because she would not fudge the data, has since created her own dashboard.
Kennedy has previously protested DeSantis and other Florida legislators by unfurling a banner in the state capitol in protest of a measure to allow teachers to carry guns in schools. He was then banned from the capitol building by the sergeant-at-arms.
Today, Kennedy took to Twitter to admonish others to speak their minds about DeSantis' leadership.
"I hope people speak out," he tells New Times. "In these times when things are so bad, with so much at stake, it's our civic duty to speak out and get involved against people who don't have our best interests in mind."