This morning, Thomas Kennedy, a political activist in Miami and member of the Florida Democratic National Convention, drove to PortMiami to attend a press conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis planned to speak about his plans to sue the federal government over its ban on cruise travel. Known for publicly challenging the governor, Kennedy, who last summer yelled during one of the governor's coronavirus press conferences that DeSantis was "an embarrassment," wanted to attend the PortMiami event to speak his mind.
"I wanted to give him my opinion of his job performance, which I think is poor," Kennedy tells New Times.
But Kennedy says that before he could even get out of his car in a parking lot about a block away from the conference, Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) officers approached and asked for identification.
Kennedy says he was told to step out of his vehicle while two officers reviewed his ID and ran it through their computer system. When he asked what was going on, he says, the officers told him they were investigating him.
"I asked if I'm being detained right now, because I didn't feel that I was free to go, and the officer said I was being detained while he conducted his investigation," Kennedy says.
Kennedy says he was not allowed to retrieve his keys or phone from his car and was told to keep his hands visible. While he was interacting with the officers, he says, other people were walking around in the same parking lot but were not approached by police.
In a video Kennedy posted on Twitter, an MDPD officer informed him that he was not allowed in the port, that he was being issued a trespass warning, and that he would be escorted out.
"They do not want you in this port. You're not allowed," the officer told Kennedy in the video.
When Kennedy responded that PortMiami, which is funded by county dollars, is public, the officer replied, "Not for you."
I was arbitrarily detained by police after trying to attend a @RonDeSantisFL press conference. Here’s video of police refusing to tell me why I was detained and why I was trespassed from port of Miami, telling me he got “orders”. This is how Desantis treats political opponents pic.twitter.com/BRyASVwX5E— Thomas Kennedy (@tomaskenn) April 8, 2021
Kennedy says he received no formal documentation of the trespass allegation.
Det. Argemis Colome, an MDPD spokesperson, tells New Times that the police department is tasked with security for the port, and the agency was told that the governor's event was for members of the media only.
"The only thing we know is that it was a media-only event, and he wasn't allowed because he's not media," Colome says. "When we called over there, the governor's team said it was media invite only."
But Kennedy says he hadn't even attempted to enter the media-event area when he was detained. He parked in a lot about a block away from the garage where media personnel were parking, and he says he wasn't asked for press credentials.
Kennedy believes the trespass warning was politically motivated.
"I told them that I think they're stopping me because I'm a critic of the governor and I've had notorious encounters with the governor. I said, 'I think you guys identified me and are arbitrarily detaining me.' I hadn't even attempted to enter the event yet."
On Twitter, Sun Sentinel deputy opinions editor Dan Sweeney said "media only" events ultimately compel someone to determine who does and doesn't qualify as a member of the media, which can in some cases be an arbitrary determination.
"I'm not saying he is," Sweeney said of Kennedy, "I'm just pointing out the arbitrariness of determining who is media and who is not. Now if there is a pre-registration process, that's one thing. But if they're just screening people at the entrance, it can get pretty problematic pretty quickly."
The problem with 86ing people from an event if they're not media is: Who gets to decide who is media?— Dan Sweeney (@Daniel_Sweeney) April 8, 2021
Like, if I just run a blog on my own, can I get access?
And what about @tomaskenn here, who has contributed multiple op-eds to @SoFlaOpinion? Is he media? https://t.co/Q0siQDaZyH
I'm not saying he is, I'm just pointing out the arbitrariness of determining who is media and who is not. Now if there is a pre-registration process, that's one thing. But if they're just screening people at the entrance, it can get pretty problematic pretty quickly.— Dan Sweeney (@Daniel_Sweeney) April 8, 2021
In the past, Kennedy has engaged in several raucous interactions with DeSantis that have led to his removal by security.
In July, he crashed a press conference held by DeSantis and then-Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez. Kennedy yelled, "Shame on you!" to the Republican politicians — a reference to their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kennedy also confronted the governor in February as he entered a press conference at a Navarro pharmacy in Hialeah. Kennedy yelled that the governor had blood on his hands over COVID deaths and accused him of using vaccines as a political tool to help his donors. Security personnel blocked Kennedy from entering the building.
Kennedy was previously banned from the Florida Capitol for a stunt that involved unfurling banners in the building to protest a number of right-leaning bills passed when DeSantis entered office.
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