When unarmed Miami Gardens teenager Trayvon Martin was gunned down by wannabe cop George Zimmerman in 2012, protests erupted across the nation. Many demonstrators wore hoodies to push back against suggestions that Martin's clothing choice had made him "suspicious." The entire Miami Heat team, including LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, even took part.
So did Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard, who wore a hoodie under his suit while speaking out in Tallahassee. Now Bullard's Republican opponent — state Rep. Frank Artiles — is using an image of that protest in a mailer suggesting Bullard "met with a terrorist organization" on a recent trip to Israel.
That accusation alone is highly suspect. But using the Trayvon Martin protest pic has especially upset black activists.
"We were both elected officials at the time we did that Trayvon protest, so he knows exactly the context of that picture," Bullard says of Artiles. "I don't know how he can link that to terrorism unless he's insinuating something about those protesters themselves."
The photo clearly comes from this protest in March 2012 outside the Florida House:
The mailer, paid for by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, uses the pic of Bullard in a hoodie amid alarming text declaring, "He made us all less safe."
As for the substance of the suggestion that Bullard "met with a terrorist organization," it's a flimsy charge. Bullard recently traveled to Israel with members of the group Black Lives Matter. When he returned home, it emerged that one tour guide in Jerusalem was a former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group.
But Bullard says that no one on the trip knew about the man's past and that the guide wasn't a major part of their trip.
"You're talking about literally two hours we spent with this guide during a nine-day trip," Bullard says. "He was apparently involved in that organization ten years before I was born, went to jail for 17 years, got out, and is now licensed as a tour guide by the Israeli government."
So suggesting Bullard "met with a terrorist organization" seems to fail any truth-o-meter test. Using a photo of Bullard protesting the unjust killing of a young black man takes the attack to another level of offensiveness.
Artiles didn't respond to multiple messages New Times left at his political and campaign offices.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.