By Pat Bryant*
Jacksonville, Florida leaders are releasing information about the racially motivated mass shooting of three Black persons by a 21 year old white supremacist. Wearing a bullet proof jacket and armed with an assault rifle, emblazoned with swastikas, and a pistol, the shooter seemed to have chosen Dollar General when Edwin Waters University security ran him off the campus. But the information released and the analysis of the causes differ widely from Sheriff T. K. Waters, Mayor Donna Deagan, Governor Ron DeSantis, and civil rights leader Rev. Reginald Gundy.
Three African Americans killed were patrons and an employee at Dollar General store on Kings Road in Jacksonville’s predominantly black Northside. Before entering the Dollar General store, Ryan Christopher Palmeter fired 11 bullets from his AK-15 styled assault rifle into the car of Angela Michelle Car, 52. She was parked in front of the store. Palmeter then went inside Dollar General and let whites leave the store before killing 29 year old Arnolt Joseph “AJ” Laguere, Jr, and DeShaun Gallion 19.
The killer drove from neighboring Clay County, killed then killed himself.
None of the leaders pointed to the need to ban assault rifles as a means of reducing mass shootings.
Sheriff Waters said the shooting was racially motivated. He said Palmeter “wanted to kill niggers” a phrase taken from the three manifestos sent before the shooting began. “There is no place for hate in our community and this is not Jacksonville.”
Hate has been a stapple in this town of almost 1 million and Florida. A two-year debate finally resulted in removal of a confederate monument just outside City Hall in a park named for James Weldon Johnson, famous black poet/educator who wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.
Rev. R.L. Gundy, president of the Jacksonville Leadership Coalition said Sheriff Waters is dead wrong. He mentions the other confederate monuments the City Council refuses to take down in Jacksonville’s “Confederate Park”. He says some of the hate in Jacksonville comes from the confederate monuments. Rev, Gundy points to Water’s statement that Jacksonville is “united against hate”. Rev Gundy asked Sheriff Waters to help the city to heal and help bring down the confederate monuments and all symbols of hate.
White Man Kills Three Blacks in Florida
In the same James Weldon Johnson park, the 1960’s were punctuated by the infamous “axe handle” riot. Hundreds of white men armed with axe handles unmercifully beat young blacks. They were engaged in a lunch counter sit-in to protest racial segregation in restaurants.
More recently Governor Ron DeSantis, aiming to attract Donald Trump’s racist base has gotten international attention with race baiting by jailing former black felons who had been issued by state officials voting cards, cancelling AP Black History classes in Florida and replacing it instruction that includes segments that slavery was not so bad because slaves benefited by learning skills that they profited from. DeSantis racist rhetoric over the past two years has been intense.
Today DeSantis says “Florida condemns the horrific racially motivated murders perpetrated by a deranged scumbag at the Dollar General store…Perpetrating violence of this kind is unacceptable and targeting people because of their race has no place in the state of Florida. Governor DeSantis remarks are not consistent with the intense race baiting he has done in the past two years. Some say that created the environment for this mass killing. That statement was a far cry from his previous race baiting. He seems to see no connection between the MAGA rhetoric, heightening racial tensions and mass killings of Blacks.
DeSantis was booed a day after the killings at a prayer vigil in Jacksonville.
Some of Florida’s public schools seem about to blow up. Besides a perverted teaching of black history, a Flagler Elementary school separated black and white 4th and 5th students and told the black children they would have to do better on required standardized tests. Parents, teachers, and students were infuriated. In April students walked out of classes across the state to protest laws that would teach lies about black history.
Swastikas, the hateful symbol of Nazi Germany is commonplace in Florida. DeSantis’ attacks against Disney over the company’s opposition to “don’t say gay” laws. They make it illegal for public school teachers to talk about gender in classrooms. They have drawn demonstrations by neo-Nazi’s adorning swastikas at Disney’s entrances and at major highways. Even at NFL games the symbol has flown.
White Man Kills Three Blacks in Florida
While not speaking directly to anti-wokeness of DeSantis and Republicans at a press conference with several law enforcement agencies, Mayor Donna Deagan was heart broken and said that the community had suffered too long.
*Pat Bryant is a southern journalist who covers the civil rights issues (freedom movement) in the Southern United States