Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.1.20

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Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

If the past couple of months have taught us in the media anything, it’s this: Nothing is the same.

The past few days only solidified what had already become a challenging world full of ups and downs.

It was a remarkable weekend, indeed — marked by a bright spot early in the day as a rocket launched from American soil, the first since 2011, quickly followed by sorrowful headlines of violence and looting across the nation; these events forced us to reexamine how we should open today’s edition of Sunburn.

Chaos erupts on Newnan Street in Jacksonville as police deploy multiple rounds of tear gas at protesters demonstrating against excessive force by police. Photo by Drew Dixon.

The nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis now have direct implications in Florida. On Saturday, the demonstrations (and subsequent brutality) hit home, emerging as a Florida tragedy.

It’s a national story that now demands inclusion in what is traditionally a Florida-centric newsletter.

As protests in Tampa turned violent, rioters set five businesses aflame, looted and burglarized some 40 more, with police arresting 41 individuals in the chaos. Jacksonville protesters were met with tear gas and flashbangs. A truck mowed through a crowd of protesters in Tallahassee.

One South Florida town scrapped a protest altogether, fearing similar outcomes.

Our nation is already battered from a global pandemic, intensified by economic collapse, and now faces turmoil over long-escalating racial tensions that could have lasting implications — for better or for worse — on social discourse.

Adding insult to injury, today is also the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, which expects to up the stress on an already exhausted state.

With that, we lead today not with campaigns or policy, but with a national crisis — one that displaces even the most shocking of Florida headlines.


Donald Trump calls George Floyd death ‘grave tragedy,’ decries violent protests in Florida speech” via Morgan Chalfant of The Hill — Trump called the death of Floyd a “grave tragedy” while decrying “violence and vandalism” as protests rippled across the country in the aftermath of the incident. Trump’s remarks, which consumed more than ten minutes of his remarks following the launch, punctuated protests that have rippled across the country in the wake of Floyd’s death, including outside the White House. Trump has defended his statement and refuted accusations he was inciting violence. He has also denied knowledge of the racially-charged origins of the phrase, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Donald Trump called the death of George Floyd a ‘grave tragedy’ while decrying ‘violence and vandalism” as protests rippled across the country in the aftermath of the incident.

Trump threatens White House protesters with ‘vicious dogs’ and ‘ominous weapons’” via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — A day after claiming he didn’t mean to suggest that law enforcement officials should shoot people who were part of the unrest in Minnesota, President Trump said that the Secret Service had been prepared to sic the “most vicious dogs” on protesters outside the White House gates. Those comments were the first of several Trump made throughout the day that veered wildly in tone and content. The tweets came as the president was facing three simultaneous crises. Trump claimed that Secret Service agents had told him they were clamoring for engagement with the protesters. “We put the young ones on the front line, sir, they love it and good practice,” he said he had been told.

‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts’: Trump quotes Miami police chief’s notorious 1967 warning” via Michael Rosenwald of The Washington Post — In late 1967, as armed robberies and unrest gripped black neighborhoods in Miami. The police, Chief Walter Headley warned, would use shotguns and dogs at his command. “I’ve let the word filter down that when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he said. Trump drew widespread criticism for using the Headley’s phrase in a tweet about protests in Minneapolis. Trump denied that he’d used the phrase as a threat. “It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement.,” he tweeted.

As cities burned, Trump stayed silent — other than tweeting fuel on the fire” via Philip Rucker of The Washington Post — In cities across America, people awoke to see shattered glass, charred vehicles, bruised bodies and graffiti-tagged buildings. Demonstrators gathered again in peaceful daytime protest of racial injustice. By evening, thousands had converged again in front of the White House, where people had rioted and set fires the night before. President Trump stayed safely ensconced inside and had nothing to say, besides tweeting. Never in the 1,227 days of Trump’s presidency has the nation seemed to cry out for leadership as it did Sunday, yet Trump made no attempt to provide it.

Will urban uprisings help Trump? Actually, They could be his undoing.” via Rick Perlstein of Mother Jones — When disorder is all around them, voters tend to blame the person in charge and, sometimes, punish those who exploit the disorder for political gain. In 1968, Richard Nixon took to the pages of a newsweekly for a guest editorial asking: “Who is responsible for the breaking of law and order in this country?” Nixon aimed straight for the amygdala of those frightened white suburbanites. Nixon’s approach worked. A politics of empathy of the sort that Hubert Humphrey and Robert Kennedy had attempted and Biden is attempting now is a political non-starter.

Officials see extremist groups, disinformation in protests” via Colleen Long, Zeke Miller and Michael Balsamo of The Associated Press — U.S. officials sought to determine whether extremist groups had infiltrated police brutality protests across the country and deliberately tipped largely peaceful demonstrations toward violence and if foreign adversaries were behind a burgeoning disinformation campaign on social media. As demonstrations spread from Minneapolis to the White House, New York City and overseas, federal law enforcement officials insisted far-left groups were stoking violence. Meanwhile, experts who track extremist groups also reported seeing evidence of the far-right at work. Investigators were also tracking online interference and looking into whether foreign agents were behind the effort.

What happened in the chaotic moments before George Floyd died” via Matt Furber, Audra D.S. Burch and Frances Robles of The New York Times — In the year before their fatal encounter, Floyd and the officer now charged with his death, Derek Chauvin, worked at the same Minneapolis Latin nightclub, both part of the team responsible for keeping rowdy customers under control. The fatal encounter began just before 8 p.m., when Floyd entered Cup Foods, a community store run by four brothers, and a store clerk claimed that he had paid for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. The store clerk demanded the cigarettes back. Even before he was placed on the ground under Chauvin’s knee, according to the prosecutors’ account, while standing outside the car, Floyd began saying repeatedly that he could not breathe.

Protests mount and violence flares in cities across U.S., putting the nation on edge” via Isaac Stanley-Becker, Colby Itkowitz and Meryl Kornfield of The Washington Post — Escalating street protests recalled recent activism by the Black Lives Matter movement, while also evoking pivotal moments in the turbulent history of racial and economic struggle, from the convulsions of 1968 to the riots that broke out in Los Angeles in response to the April 1992 acquittal of the officers charged in the beating of Rodney King. Ongoing eruptions had yet to reach these levels, as mayors and Governors implored their citizens to stay calm, while President Trump urged authorities to “get tougher.” The threat did not deter multigenerational and multiracial crowds from thronging cities.

Floyd protests continue” via Ben Westcott, Brett McKeehan, Laura Smith-Spark, Fernando Alfonso III, Amir Vera and Daniella Diaz of CNN — As protests continue across New York, the city’s Mayor, Bill de Blasio, has been speaking about systemic racism in American society and problems exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Saturday night authorizing the activation of up to 3,000 National Guard troops statewide. The Atlanta Police Department said one of its officers had sustained “significant injuries” after seemingly being struck by “someone riding an ATV,” in a tweet. Three people were arrested during protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Saturday night, police said.

Eugene Oregon is ablaze with protests for the death of George Floyd. Image via AP.

“‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters America” via The Associated Press — Cars and businesses were torched, the words “I can’t breathe” were spray-painted all over buildings, a fire in a trash bin burned near the gates of the White House, and thousands marched peacefully through city streets to protest Floyd, a black man who died Monday at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer. His death is one of many racial tragedies that have thrown the country into chaos amid the coronavirus pandemic that has left millions out of work including disproportionate numbers of black people. “The cops are out of control,” protester Olga Hall said in Washington D.C. “There’s just been too many dead boys.”

A protester poses for photos next to a burning police vehicle in Los Angeles during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd. Image via AP.

More journalists targeted in protests around nation” via The Associated Press — A Fox News reporter was pummeled and chased by protesters who had gathered outside the White House early Saturday adding to a growing number of journalists targeted by protesters, counterprotesters and police in the nationwide unrest following Floyd’s death. A television reporter in Columbia, South Carolina, was hurt by a thrown rock Saturday and a journalist in Minneapolis was shot in the thigh by a rubber bullet. A television news photographer in Pittsburgh said he was beaten by demonstrators, and police in Louisville, Kentucky, apologized after an officer fired what appeared to be pepper bullets at a television news crew.

Buildings burn and Trump talks tough. Where are the healers?” via Marc Fisher of The Washington Post — As protests quickly flipped from peaceful to fiery in more than two dozen U.S. cities, Trump said little Saturday about the frustrations that drove thousands of people to crowd into downtown streets in the middle of a pandemic. Instead, the President defaulted to his usual style of leadership: tearing people down and talking tough. There was no talk of uniting the country and, hours later, only brief mention of those protesting racial injustice, police brutality and the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis. In the absence of presidential leadership, and with crowds gathering yet again Saturday night, members of Congress, Governors and Mayors need to step up.

Trump has sown hatred of the press for years. Now journalists are under assault from police and protesters alike.” via Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post — There are those who argue that Trump’s endless disparagement of the news media is harmless, perhaps a little extreme at times, but mostly just a lot of talk. All around the country, journalists were harassed, sometimes by police, sometimes by protesters. Outside the White House, demonstrators went after Fox News journalists, chasing them out of Lafayette Square. In Denver, police fired paintballs and tear gas, hitting a news photographer and his camera.

Marco Rubio warns Antifa, ‘ethnic’ nationalists not taking weekend off’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Reacting to the riots that swept the nation after Minneapolis police killed Floyd, Rubio warned of extremists from both sides of the spectrum. “WE KNOW we have far-left groups who support violent protest. WE KNOW we have ethnic nationalists who promote race-based conflict. And no reason to believe any of them are taking the weekend off,” Rubio warned. Late Saturday morning, the Senator fretted that Antifa was co-opting the protests. “Growing signs that far-left militant Antifa groups are taking advantage of the rightful outrage over Mr. Floyd’s murder to incite violence at protests. We must not allow these violent radicals to distract from or harm the effort to address the real & legitimate issues of race,” Rubio tweeted.

N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo blames ‘Florida Spring Break’ for unmasked youth protesters” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Cuomo mused Saturday that “beaches in Florida” caused New York youth not to wear masks while protesting police brutality. “It’s difficult with young people,” Cuomo said. “I think the way they first heard about this virus was that they were immune. There’s a video clip during the Florida Spring Break when you had all those young people on the beach in Florida and there’s a clip of a young gentleman saying … it’s not going to stop me from partying.” The comments came during the Governor’s Saturday briefing, and Cuomo did not mention New York’s much higher rate of contagion than Florida, which observers attribute to subway cars and other close-quarters incubators of community spread.

Atlanta Mayor on Trump’s riot response: ‘He speaks and he makes it worse’” via Axios — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms responded on CNN’s “State of the Union” to Trump’s tweets and comments about the mass protests that have swept across the United States, urging him to “just stop talking.” “This is like Charlottesville all over again. He speaks and he makes it worse. There are times when you should just be quiet. And I wish that he would just be quiet.” She continued: “Or if he can’t be silent if there is somebody of good sense and good conscience in the White House, put him in front of a teleprompter and pray that he reads it and at least says the right things, because he is making it worse.”

Target temporarily shuts stores in cities hit by protests over George Floyd death” via Don Sweeney of the Tampa Bay Times — As protests, riots and looting over the death of George Floyd in police custody grip the nation, Target has temporarily closed 175 stores in 13 states across the United States. Most of the stores appear to be in or near cities hit by violent protests and lootings, such as Atlanta, Georgia and California’s Bay Area. Target stores in some cities have already been damaged or looted. Employees at closed stores will be paid for scheduled shifts for the next 14 days, including coronavirus bonuses, and will be able to work at nearby stores, Target says.

—“Photos from the Floyd protests, city by city” via Weiyi Cai, Crista Chapman, Juliette Love, Jugal K. Patel and Yuliya Parshina-Kottas of The New York Times

—“In photos: People around the world show support for Floyd” via Rashaan Ayesh of Axios

—“Charleston under countywide curfew, 11 p.m.-7 a.m., amid protests, looting, vandalism” via Drew Tripp of ABC 4 News

—“Cleveland businesses vandalized, looted during ‘I Can’t Breathe’ rally” via WKYC

—“Dallas police detain 15 people for vandalizing buildings, recover three guns and a taser” via WFAA

—“After peaceful afternoon, protests escalate in Madison” via WKOW ABC 27

—“Nashville’s City Hall set ablaze; nearly 30 arrested” via Stephanie Toone of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

—“Curfew, disaster declaration in place after Philly protests are followed by looting, vandalism, fires” via The Philadelphia Inquirer

—“Looters strike downtown Raleigh CVS, later set fire outside” via CBS 17

—“The next day: Reno begins repairs, clean up after riot” via KOLO

—“’Stop the madness’: SF officials plead for calm as chaos roils downtown and Oakland police confront vandalism” via Matthias Gafni, Trisha Thadani and Jill Tucker of the San Francisco Chronicle

—“A day of protests in Tallahassee: through the lens of a photojournalist” via the Tallahassee Democrat

Tweet, tweet:

Deaths without consequences” via Ursula Perano of Axios — Seven years after the launch of the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s still rare for police officers to be charged in the deaths of African Americans and even rarer for an officer to go to jail. Cases have usually ended with either no charges or no jail time for police officers. The Minneapolis police officer who was captured on video kneeling on Floyd‘s neck has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, which is already a step beyond the consequences other police officers have faced. But it’s no guarantee that he will face jail time.

Rumors are swirling over footage showing a shadowy figure dubbed ‘umbrella man’ breaking windows during the Minneapolis protests” via Isaac Scher of Insider — The man was wearing a gas mask. On one hand, he held an umbrella, black like his clothing. In the other, a hammer. The man took the hammer to several windows of an AutoZone store in Minneapolis. The footage went viral, and now the man is the subject of scrutiny on social media. Some people speculate that he was not a protester, but a police officer from neighboring St. Paul. The man was seen breaking four windows before a protester, wearing a pink T-shirt, intervened, stepping between the man and the storefront. He broke another window as a second person intervened.

Echoes of 1968 and other American years” via Ted Anthony of The Associated Press — The streets were on fire as National Guard troops streamed into American cities. The shouts were soaked in anger and anguish: “We’re sick of it!” There was a dark talk of “radical agitators.” Violent outbursts and arrests piled up across the republic. The White House issued martial statements about law and order. On TV, footage of unrest and anger played on a continuous loop. The voice from mission control was cool and calm as the rocket soared into the sky and toward space. “Stage One propulsion is nominal.” It was the late 1960s. It is right now. It is impossible to ignore the similarities between these past few days and some of the more unsettling moments from the 1960s. In particular 1968.


@WashingtonWeek: Americans started the year thinking 2020 resembled 1998, with impeachment. Then came the pandemic, like 1918, economic collapse like 1929, and now violent racial protests like 1968, says @peterbakernyt. “We’re undergoing a great national trauma.”

@MitttRomney: The George Floyd murder is abhorrent. Peaceful protests underscore the urgency of addressing injustices. But violence drowns the message of the protesters and mocks the principles of justice.

@KamalaHarris: From the time a Black woman gives birth to her child, she prays to God that they will be safe. That no one will harm them because of the color of their skin. That they won’t become another trending hashtag.

@marcorubio: Various domestic terror groups on BOTH far left & right are instigating & committing acts of violence & looting. They are stealing the focus away from the murder of Mr. Floyd & the legitimate problems it revealed.

Tweet, tweet:

@RepValDemings: Today is 99 years since the #TulsaMassacre. Today’s struggles are no accident. Our divisions were forged by hateful men in the fires of bigotry and racial plunder. It’s our task to extinguish those flames, rebuild true equal opportunity, and create justice. It is time to heal.

Tweet, tweet:

@AnthonySabatini: Attention potential “protesters” coming near Lake County, FL. This is an AR-15 — this will be a very common sight upon illegal entry at any Lake County business — FYI!

@kionnemcghee: Please excuse this crime provoking statement from my colleague Rep. @AnthonySabatini from the Florida House. While he seeks political attention with his call for violence & criminal acts, a hug, love, and a psychological evaluation for him should due for now! #blesshislittleheart

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@DanDaley: It’s not about my voice. It’s about lifting up and amplifying the voices of those who for far too long have been marginalized. People are hurt, angry, sad, and exhausted — and they have every right to be.

@AbbyDPhillip: Watching this country burn from coast to coast, it’s obvious people are angry. Yes, George Floyd touched this off. But let’s not forget: 103k+ are dead, most of them black and brown. 40 million people are unemployed. This is a nation in crisis.

@Netflix: To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up.

@KrystalBall: Everyone pushing an “outside agitators” narrative is a fool who finds it more comfortable to believe in some grand conspiracy than in the obvious truth that people have fucking had it.

@Bernstein: An important thing to keep in mind as you try to make sense of protest/unrest coverage is that our current media moment ensures that any given event can and will be decontextualized and reassembled in such a way that confirms any number of political aims

@Jelani9: You know we’re in uncharted territory when something happens in Minneapolis and they’re setting cars on fire in Salt Lake City.


Universal Orlando begins phased reopening — 4; PGA Tour resumes with Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth — 10; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 11; “Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre” by Max Brooks release — 15; Belmont Stakes rescheduled — 19; Father’s Day — 20; Apple to hold Developer Conference — 21; “The Outpost” with Orlando Bloom and Scott Eastwood premieres — 32; Disney World Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom to reopen — 40; Disney World Epcot and Hollywood Studios to reopen — 44; Federal taxes due — 44; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 46; “Mulan” premieres — 53; TED conference rescheduled — 45; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 77; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 81; Indy 500 rescheduled — 91; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 84; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 95; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 96; Rescheduled date for French Open — 110; First presidential debate in Indiana — 121; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 124; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 131; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 136; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 137; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 144; 2020 General Election — 155; “Black Widow” premieres — 157; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 169; “No Time to Die” premieres — 176; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 225; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 251; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 417; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 426; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 522; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 620; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 652; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 705; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 858.


Ron DeSantis activates National Guard as nationwide protests reach Florida” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis has activated the Florida National Guard in response to protests that engulfed the nation this weekend. DeSantis’ spokeswoman, Helen Aguirre Ferré, tweeted Sunday that the Governor activated the guardsmen the day before. The Governor also activated 350 guardsmen in the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center near Starke and 140 in Miramar to respond across the state if necessary. Castor made the request to support critical infrastructure protection and local law enforcement, Ferré said.

Police officers stand in formation against protesters throwing rocks and water bottles during a demonstration next to the city of Miami Police Department. Image via AP.

Marchers call for justice, police accountability” via Cindy Swirko of the Gainesville Sun — A vocal but peaceful mass of more than 1,000 protesters marched from Depot Park to Bo Diddley Plaza Saturday morning to call for justice and accountability for the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police. While the event itself happened without incident, a man was later arrested for allegedly trying to drive through a group of people who had been at the rally and pulling a gun on them. Aeriel Lane, who organized the march on a few days’ notice after Monday’s killing of George Floyd while detained by Minneapolis police, was overwhelmed by the turnout. The gathering was as diverse as can be by race, age and gender. Rare was the person without a face covering as COVID-19 protection.

Once peaceful protest, Jacksonville anti-police brutality demonstration turns chaotic” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — About 3,000 demonstrators Marched through downtown Jacksonville streets beginning at 3 p.m. Organizers were pleased the event showed no signs of confrontation. But by 7 p.m. the seemingly festive atmosphere turned ominous when several dozen Jacksonville officers in full riot gear had a standoff with demonstrators. Two armored police vehicles also responded to the scene. When police tried to apprehend one protester, crowds started to throw water bottles and cups at the officers. Police deployed “flash bangs” multiple times and eventually began firing tear gas canisters to disperse crowds.

>>>”Photos: Jacksonville anti-police brutality demonstration” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics

Jacksonville lawmakers hold Zoom meeting in wake of Saturday violence” via Clayton Freeman of The Florida Times-Union — Lawmakers from city and state legislative bodies were scheduled to speak out by way of a Zoom meeting Sunday, in the aftermath of Saturday night violence that erupted after a peaceful earlier protest in downtown Jacksonville.

Violence erupts after Jacksonville demonstration; officer hospitalized” via Teresa Stepzinski and Garry Smits of The Florida Times-Union — Violence erupted in Jacksonville’s downtown after thousands of people earlier marched peacefully on police headquarters in protest against law enforcement abuses of force and calling for reforms in the law enforcement and criminal justice systems. Broken glass and damage to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office vehicles were reported, as was the firing of tear gas. Police urged people not already downtown Saturday night to stay away from the area. The midafternoon demonstration drew a racially diverse crowd that called for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to release videos captured by body cameras in connection with recent police-involved shootings. During the afternoon, marchers twice blocked the entrance to the JSO headquarters.

Jacksonville’s second day of protest brings some tension and a curfew” via The Florida Times-Union — Demonstrators gathered Sunday for a second day in downtown Jacksonville, a protest largely peaceful but marked by periodic tensions, one day after a round of Saturday night violence left windows shattered, a police officer injured and a city shaken. Though multiple people were detained, Sunday’s protests — beginning with a group of around 80 people outside the Duval County courthouse and growing steadily as they passed through multiple downtown streets — remained mostly free from comparable flare-ups through the afternoon. However, amid increasing tension as nightfall approached, Mayor Lenny Curry declared a curfew to take effect at 8 p.m., to last until 6 a.m. Monday.

Anthony Sabatini posts picture of AR-15 rifle directed at protesters” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — A Florida Republican legislator posted a picture of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in a tweet directed at protesters Sunday morning, drawing condemnation from state Democrats. “Attention potential ‘protesters’ coming near Lake County, FL,” wrote Sabatini at 1:17 a.m., alongside a picture of the rifle on a table. “This is an AR-15 — this will be a very common sight upon illegal entry at any Lake County business — FYI!” The tweet by Sabatini, whose controversial social media posts have gotten him in hot water with fellow Republicans, comes two days after Trump was criticized for a tweet that Twitter said violated its rules for “glorifying violence.”

Florida Dems thwarted in getting Sabatini bounced from Twitter for AR-15 ‘threat’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Florida Democrats called for the removal from Twitter of a Republican member of the Florida House, after he said an AR-15 would greet rioters in his county. Rep. Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican, responded to riots throughout the state and the nation with a bellicose vow. “Attention potential ‘protesters’ coming near Lake County, FL. This is an AR-15 — this will be a very common sight upon illegal entry at any Lake County business — FYI!” Sabatini’s comments came after widely-reported unrest, including violence and wanton destruction of public property, in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville, among other Florida cities.

Miami protests turn to torching, vandalism, looting” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Miami protests turned violent as a small group set fire to multiple police cruisers, prompting police to respond with tear gas and fireworks to disperse the crowd. At one point, Interstate 95 was shut down in both directions as a group of protesters stood on the busy roadway. Police officers later used bicycles to push back an increasingly rowdy crowd throwing rocks. Cars were vandalized, including those belonging to protesters. Later Saturday night, videos on social media showed dozens of people breaking into stores. Miami-Dade police said 38 people were arrested.

Miami-Dade County implements mandatory curfew as downtown Miami protests become violent” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Hundreds protested in downtown Miami and Coral Gables against the police brutality that killed George Floyd. As day turned to night, a peaceful protest turned violent with looting and a mandatory curfew was put in place by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez. Around 8 p.m. after downtown Miami protesters were pushed off Interstate 95, tear gas was used on protesters by police. During the commotion, protesters set ablaze a Miami police car and a civilian car. Others got into Miami police’s parking lot and damaged other vehicles. Aerial television news footage also showed a big group of looters ransacking Bayside Marketplace in downtown Miami.

Orlando, Orange County under curfew after Floyd protests, businesses vandalized” via Lisa Maria Garza of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando and Orange County will be under a curfew after the violence at protests and looting at some businesses Saturday night, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said. Demings and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said they support and embrace public demonstrations. The curfew will start at 10 until 5 a.m. and is in effect indefinitely. Orlando has a long history of demonstrating peacefully, Dyer said, but a “small group of people brought violence to these peaceful demonstrations.”

Protesters march through downtown Orlando chanting ‘black lives matter’” via Lisa Maria Garza and David Harris of the Orlando Sentinel — At Lake Eola, a couple of hundred people knelt in a moment of silence, holding candles to pay respects to black men killed, including Floyd, who was pinned to the ground with a knee to his neck by a Minneapolis police officer. Protesters converged upon Orlando Police Department headquarters on South Street and Orange Blossom Trail, where officers in riot gear guarded the building surrounded by metal barricades. One woman screamed, “Silence is violence. Don’t be silent” at the officers. Earlier in the day, Orlando and Orange County were put under a curfew starting at 10 p.m. after the violence at protests and looting at some businesses Saturday night.

As ex-Minneapolis officer arrested on murder charge, protesters at his Orlando-area home demand justice for Floyd” via Jeff Weiner and Grace Toohey of the Orlando Sentinel — Though local authorities had stressed that he wasn’t in Central Florida, and even after news emerged that he’d been arrested for murder in Minnesota, protesters flowed to a townhouse near Windermere owned by the now-infamous ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The reason, the protesters said, was solidarity to do something more than sharing their outrage in posts on social media. They came to be seen and stand in support of Floyd, the man whose neck Chauvin compressed with his knee for several minutes of agony captured on video.

Floyd protests: Orlando police use tear gas to disperse crowd blocking State Road 408” via Grace Toohey, Monivette Cordeiro and Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — During a full day of demonstrations Saturday over the death of Floyd that spilled across downtown Orlando, protesters demanded justice for the Minnesota man and said they feared they or a loved one could be next to die at the hands of police. Although the protests started peacefully Saturday afternoon in front of the Windermere home owned by Chauvin, the police officer charged in Floyd’s death, by evening tensions rose downtown, culminating with police using tear gas to clear protesters off State Road 408. As the protesters fled, some picked up gas canisters that had landed along the highway embankment and threw them back toward police. Amid the chaos, a downpour began, further dispersing the protesters.

St. Petersburg leaders ‘proud’ of peaceful Saturday demonstrations” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — After midnight on Sunday morning, in a darkened police station that sat quietly for the first time since the prior morning, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Police Chief Anthony Holloway reflected on a day that brought hundreds to demonstrate in the city’s downtown streets. Both men were proud, they said, of what had been, considering the possibilities, an uneventful day in the Sunshine City. Despite hours of demonstrations, local protesters remained calm and nonviolent. The emotionally charged yet peaceful gatherings drew a stark contrast to what played out in Tampa, where a sporting goods store burned down, tear gas was fired and businesses were looted.

Sarasota protest condemns Floyd’s death; also calls for cancellation of rents” via Emily Wunderlich of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Roughly 30 protesters wearing masks protested at City Hall, condemning police brutality in the death of Floyd. The protesters ranged from teens to seniors who decorated their cars with messages. A rent moratorium was also a target of the protest. The protest was organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation. “We are here to stand against police brutality, to demand that killer cops go to jail. All of them — not just some of them,” said Ruth Beltran, a PSL organizer.

Pickup truck mows through protesters in Tallahassee” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Protesters took to the streets of Tallahassee Saturday after the local death of a black man accentuated other fatal police incidents across the country. Tony McDade, 38, was fatally shot Wednesday by a white Tallahassee police officer after he stabbed his next-door neighbor and allegedly pointed his gun at an officer. The city’s response has outraged some members of the community. “Nobody has been held accountable in the past,” said protester Sarah Turner. “This system needs to be fixed so more black people don’t die in the streets.” The generally peaceful protest was underscored early Saturday when a pickup truck accelerated into protesters, though no one was seriously injured.

A woman speaks to fellow protesters on the steps of the Tallahassee Police Department on Friday. Image via Jason Delgado.

Curfew declared in Tallahassee, Leon County from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. after day of protests” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — After a day of tense protests in Florida’s capital city, Leon County officials are declaring a curfew. The curfew will go into effect 11 p.m. in Leon County and run through 6 a.m. It will take hold again the same hours Sunday into Monday. No one has been arrested in conjunction with the protests, which were largely peaceful, according to the police. During the curfew, people are allowed to go to and from work, seek health care or emergency veterinary care and or walk a pet on their premises.

Black elected officials in Hillsborough call for a task force to address violence” via Mari Faiello of the Tampa Bay Times — Seven black elected leaders in Hillsborough County issued a letter saying they are “deeply disturbed by the destruction that is happening within the City of Tampa right now” and calling for productive ways to help handle future violent situations. “We understand the hurt, pain and frustration that our protesters are feeling right now but we must remember, we have to live here tomorrow. We need to look at all methods of expressing our feelings and desires, not just destruction.”

—“Fire, looting and violence reported as Tampa Bay protests escalate” via Josh Fiallo, Divya Kumar, Chris Tisch, Josh Solomon, Zachary T. Sampson, Bethany Barnes, Malena Carollo, Luis Santana, Diana C. Nearhos, Dan Sullivan and John Martin of the Tampa Bay Times

41 arrested in Tampa after peaceful protests gave way to chaos and looting” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Sparked by outrage over the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis, 41 people were arrested Saturday night into Sunday morning. Champs Sports and a Mobil station were burned down while three others were set aflame. About 40 businesses were burglarized and looted, according to Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan. Peaceful demonstrations gave way to rioting and looting sometime around 6 p.m., Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said, with protesters beginning to throw bottles, rocks and fireworks at officers. One Tampa police officer was treated for minor burns after being struck by a mortar. Castor did not say if the city or county would employ measures like instituting a curfew.

Tampa enacts curfew; police use tear gas, rounds to break up Black Lives Matter march” via Monique Welch, Kavitha Surana, Dan Sullivan and Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — Hundreds of protesters marched in East Tampa and St. Petersburg to draw attention to the toll of police violence on African Americans. It was the second day of protests in the area. After looting and instances of violence marked protests Saturday night, city officials and businesses enacted measures designed to reduce the risk of violence. Several malls closed early or never opened, and Mayor Jane Castor announced a 7:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for the city of Tampa.

The Saigon Bay Vietnamese Restaurant in Tampa on fire after violent protests Saturday night.

Their Mobil station was set on fire. ‘We have no anger really.’” via Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times — When Tutu and Mosheda Hussain returned to their charred livelihood Sunday morning, helplessness had segued to despair. The Tampa proprietors said they left their business around 10 p.m. Saturday, undefended against the growing group of protesters that ultimately would loot their establishment. They returned around 10 hours later to shattered glass, empty shelves, fire damage and graffiti. “We have no anger really,” Tutu said. “But we’re sad … And now, the last two or three months, the economy has been bad.”

Floyd demonstrators peacefully kneel outside Moore Justice Center in Viera” via Rick Neale of Florida Today — After watching violence erupt at protests across America, Melbourne resident Jarvis James became inspired to organize a harmonious Space Coast demonstration. Wearing a black “I can’t breathe” mask, James led about 40 demonstrators Sunday afternoon as they knelt and sat in silence at a circular grassy area outside the Moore Justice Center in Viera. “I was sitting at home and talking to friends, feeling powerless with the negative energy on TV — the rioting and the looting. And I wanted to do something peaceful,” James said, minutes before the event began. The Viera demonstrators knelt and sat in the grass outside the courthouse during 10 minutes of silence. Some held hands. Others bowed their heads.

Lauderhill Black Lives Matter protest scrapped after overnight chaos erupted in cities nationwide” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The protest was postponed due to continuing escalation nationwide. The Black Lives Matter peaceful protest had been scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center, but the city of Lauderhill, in concert with protest organizers, scrapped the protest. “In an effort to assist the organization produce a safe and secure event, the City of Lauderhill felt it was in the best interest of attendees and the surrounding community to work with the organizers to postpone the event,” the city wrote in an announcement. The city didn’t say when a new protest would be scheduled.

A total of 44 people were arrested in Saturday’s downtown Miami protests against police violence, the Miami-Dade Police Department announced.

Florida Sheriff Association condemns actions and inactions of fired Minneapolis officers” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Florida Sheriff Association released a statement Friday on the death of Floyd and the arrest of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, condemning the action and inaction of the officers involved in the incident. “As President of the Florida Sheriffs Association and on behalf of all Florida sheriffs, I offer our sympathies to the family of George Floyd,” said FSA President and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. The statement came hours after Chauvin’s arrest was announced.

In rare move, multiple Florida law enforcement leaders condemn actions by MN officers in Floyd killing, call for justice” via Shelby Danielsen of First Coast News — The killing of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers has set much of the nation on fire, literally and figuratively, as people call for justice. Law enforcement leaders on the First Coast are also now voicing their outrage along with communities across the country. Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach condemned the actions by the officers in Minneapolis. “I was appalled at how they treated George Floyd there and the injustice,” said DeLoach. DeLoach said he has been closely following both the Floyd case and the closer-to-home Ahmaud Arbery case since the beginning.


NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station after Dragon capsule successfully docks” via Christian Davenport and Jacob Bogage of The Washington Post — The SpaceX spacecraft carrying two NASA astronauts docked with the International Space Station Sunday morning, completing the first leg of a historic journey. The mission was the first time NASA astronauts had launched from United States soil since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011. It was also a test flight designed to see how the spacecraft, which had never flown humans before, performed. So far, it seems the answer is very well, but the astronauts still need to return home safely after their tour on the station ends sometime in the coming months.

After a 19-hour trip, the NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley successfully docked their capsule and entered the space station. Image via NASA.

Doug Hurley, Bob Behnken, SpaceX and NASA launch new era of space flight” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Saturday afternoon Hurley and Behnken became space pioneers in their own way: the first to go into space aboard a rocket designed, built, managed, launched, and directed by a private company, when the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted into orbit from Kennedy Space Center. “America has launched. So rises a new era of American space flight, and with it the ambitions of a new generation, continuing to dream!” added launch director Mike Taylor. The launch made SpaceX the first private company to carry astronauts into orbit. NASA has not yet decided when the two will return to earth, but they safely joined the International Space Station Sunday morning for what is expected to be an extended stay.

Trump exults in rocket launch as chaos unfolds around the country” via Gabby Orr of POLITICO — The President, who described the mission as an “inspiration” for Americans, cast the SpaceX launch as a triumphant moment for the country, a brief reprieve from an otherwise dark period in American history. Though Saturday’s occasion was largely overshadowed by the outbreak of violence in U.S. cities, Trump still managed to plug his “America First” agenda. The President said the SpaceX launch should be a powerful testament to what the country can accomplish through public-private partnerships as the government and private drug manufacturers work to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.

Launch provides Trump moment to relish during difficult week” via Jill Colvin of The Associated Press — Trump celebrated the first launch of American astronauts from U.S. soil in nearly a decade, marveling at the power of the rocket ship and the danger faced by its passengers as they soared into the stratosphere and provided a moment of triumph as the country raged and mourned. Trump addressed the unrest during a speech celebrating the launch, saying Floyd’s death was a “grave tragedy” that has filled the country with anger and grief. But he said his administration would stop mob violence, “and we’ll stop it cold.” Asked why he felt it was important to be in Florida for the launch, given all that is going on in the country, Trump said the launch was a “great inspiration” for the country.

DeSantis sees SpaceX launch as next step in getting Americans to Mars” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis Friday plotted out a course for NASA and SpaceX that goes beyond the International Space Station. “We’re on the cusp of, once again, sending American astronauts to space, launching from American soil, by an American rocket,” he said. “And if we’re able to do this, the next stop is to the moon again, and then the stop on that is to Mars.” The last time astronauts launched to orbit from the U.S. was in 2011. NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to get the ball rolling again — kicking off a commercial revolution for getting people to low-Earth orbit.

Imagination and hope fuel historic launch during tough times” via John Torres of Florida Today — This is about imagination and hope. People imagined all this: building rockets and space stations and sending humans into space. And brains much more brilliant than most took that imagination and molded it into real-life spaceships flown by real-life heroes. This celebration of imagination is something we desperately needed this afternoon. Dusting ourselves off and picking ourselves up is what we do. It’s in our DNA. It’s the American way. But this year, so inappropriately named for clarity — 2020 — has been anything but. COVID-19 and the ensuing worldwide pandemic made sure of that. And saying things haven’t been easy is grossly understating the facts.

Flashback: Ready to put spades to work at the 2011 groundbreaking ceremonies for SpaceX’s new Falcon 9 rocket launch facilities at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral: (from left) Rep. Thad Altman; Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp; Elon Musk; Brig. Gen. Susan Helms, Commander of the 45 Space Wing; Brevard County EDC CEO Lynda Weatherman; Steve Koehler, President Space Florida; Janet Petro, Deputy Director of NASA KSC; Patricia Grace Smith, FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation; Steve Cain, NASA COTS program manager. Image via NASA/George Shelton KSC.


90th day of COVID-19 in Florida: 1M people tested” via Florida Politics — More than 1 million residents and visitors in the state have been tested for COVID-19 during the pandemic as the state crossed the 90th day since the first Floridians tested positive. The Department of Health received the results of more than 30,063 people, raising the total count of people tested to 1,022,265, approaching 5% of the state’s population. As of Sunday, 56,163 people, including 699 confirmed since Saturday’s report, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

A medical healthcare worker drops a specimen collection into a container after testing a motorist for COVID-19 at a community testing site in the parking lot of La Flor de Jalisco #2 in Gainesville, Ga., Friday, May 15, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
A medical health care worker drops a specimen collection into a container after testing a motorist for COVID-19. Image via AP.

States brace for disasters as pandemic collides with hurricane season” via Dan Goldberg and Brianna Ehley of POLITICO Florida — Florida’s Division of Emergency Management is trying to get the word out. Before COVID-19, the state encouraged residents to evacuate areas in the path of less powerful storms. Now, it wants them to consider sheltering at home. “We’d always say know your zone, as in know when you need to evacuate,” said Director Jared Moskowitz. “Now we’re saying know your home.” The state has asked FEMA to preapprove a plan to allow the medically frail to shelter at hotels rather than storm-resistant school gyms where a communal setting could serve as a breeding ground for the coronavirus.

Assignment editors — The Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Consumer Services Committee will hold a telephonic news conference on hurricane prep amid COVID-19, including a discussion of guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 a.m. Call-in number: 1-888-942-8686. Code: 9447106691.

Half of Florida COVID-19 deaths linked to long-term care” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — In a stark reminder of the toll of COVID-19 on seniors and their caregivers, slightly more than half of the reported deaths of Floridians from the disease are now linked to long-term care facilities, state figures show. Florida topped the 50% threshold in numbers released Saturday by the state Department of Health. A report released Sunday showed 2,451 deaths of Florida residents from COVID-19, with 1,230 involving residents or staff members of long-term care facilities. The respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus is particularly dangerous to seniors and people with underlying health conditions, which generally describes most people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

In Florida, 83 % of coronavirus deaths are people 65 and older” via Rebecca Woolington and Connie Humburg of the Tampa Bay Times — One in four people over 85 with a confirmed infection has died. Outbreaks have devastated nursing homes in nearly every corner of the state, from the Panhandle down to the Atlantic Coast. Some of the deadliest have occurred in the greater Tampa Bay region. The percentage of deaths tied to care centers has been steadily increasing over the past several weeks. Now, at least 43% of deaths statewide can be attributed to long-term care facilities — the equivalent of 875 lives lost.

Florida’s total hospitalizations surpass 10,000” via The Florida Times-Union — Florida recorded its 10,000th hospitalization for COVID-19 and Duval County listed its 48th from the disease in Saturday’s daily report from the state department of health. The health department reported the death of an 88-year-old man in Duval County. The news increases the Northeast Florida death toll to 91. The number of positive tests in Duval County rose by 47, the largest report-to-report increase in weeks, for 1,608 to date. In all, Northeast Florida recorded 60 new positive tests, with six more in Clay County, four more in St. Johns County and one each in Baker, Nassau and Putnam counties.

Florida’s seen a ‘statistically significant’ uptick in pneumonia deaths. The CDC says it’s likely COVID.” via Erin Banco of the Daily Beast — Since the beginning of this year, Florida has experienced an uptick in the number of pneumonia and influenza deaths, according to data from the CDC. There have been 1,519 deaths in Florida where pneumonia and influenza were listed as the underlying cause. By comparison, in the same time period last year, Florida recorded 1,207 such deaths. The increase has sparked a conspiracy theory on the left, that Florida is deliberately trying to undercount coronavirus fatalities by labeling them as something else.

Florida has seen an uptick in pneumonia deaths that could be linked to COVID-19.

Quarantine cuts number of Florida traffic crashes in half” via The Associated Press — The number of traffic crashes in Florida dropped by 50% in April compared to the same time last year. With residents holed up at home, working remotely and running fewer errands, rush hour traffic has dipped considerably. Shuttered bars and restaurants have meant fewer drunken drivers on the roads. Florida drivers were involved in 16,191 crashes last month compared to 33,692 in April 2019. The dip started in March as the pandemic spread. Florida’s crash data showed a 25% decrease in March compared to last year.

First Amendment group opposes webinars on toll roads” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Open government advocates want the brakes applied to upcoming webinars about controversial toll-road projects, contending that more-inclusive in-person meetings should be held as the state reopens amid the coronavirus pandemic. “The webinars are a poor substitute for the kind of government that is required by Florida’s Sunshine Law, which does apply to the M-CORES task force meetings,” First Amendment Foundation President Pamela Marsh wrote Thursday to Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault, using an acronym for the projects that the state has dubbed the “Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance.” “All portions of the Sunshine Law continue to apply even during this horrible pandemic,” Marsh stated. “No part of the law has been suspended or modified as applied to state agencies.”


DeSantis: ‘Absolutely assume’ full high school football season in Florida” via Eric J. Wallace of the Pensacola News Journal — DeSantis is more than a little bullish about the odds of a full 2020 high school football season. During an appearance on the Outkick the Coverage podcast with Clay Travis, DeSantis continued his open posture toward sports in Florida with full-throated confidence that the 2020 high school football season would be played in its entirety this fall. “This is so important for our kids, particularly those that are going to be seniors,” DeSantis said. Restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have gradually relaxed in Florida throughout May.

DeSantis isn’t walking a straight line toward Phase Two of COVID-19 reopening” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — Its been roughly a month since DeSantis launched Phase 1 of a plan to reopen Florida’s economy following his COVID-19 stay-home executive orders. We’ve seen the return of sit-down restaurants, hair and nail salons, even kids’ summer camps, with some limitations. So, when do we get to Phase Two? That would require evidence of continued decline, or at least containment, of the disease. His administration hasn’t said much about the Governor’s plans in this regard, even as other states in the nation have launched a Phase Two reopening. But one thing is for sure: The Governor has never followed his own guidelines rigorously.

Some say Ron DeSantis is not being direct in the COVID-19 recovery. Image via AP.

Workers to gradually return to Ashley Moody’s offices” via News Service of Florida — A quarter of the employees in the state Attorney General’s Office will have the option to return to in-office work starting Tuesday. Lauren Cassidy, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Moody, said up to 25% of department staff members may return to offices on a “voluntary basis.” High-risk people will continue to work from home amid the coronavirus pandemic, she added. “Our offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach are excluded at this time,” Cassidy noted. “Additionally, masks will be required and provided in communal spaces.” Hand sanitizers will also be made available to staff who return to the offices, she said.

Health officials warn against relaxing COVID-19 precautions; Veterans Services office to reopen June 1” via Corey Arwood of TCPalm — County and state health leaders told residents to continue wearing masks and maintaining distance in public as county offices reopen and a “new normal” emerges with coronavirus cases creeping upward. At the weekly Indian River County and Florida Department of Health COVID-19 meeting Friday, officials said an 18-case increase countywide over the past two weeks points to a relaxation of social distancing practices among residents.

The traditional opening of public schools in FL may no longer mean August.” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — Educators and other key officials working on how to safely reopen K-12 schools in Florida considered the possibility that it may not be safe to reopen schools right away. A K-12 committee on reopening schools was launched by the Florida Education Association and the United Faculty of Florida and held its last meeting Friday. Recommendations will be presented Tuesday in a news conference. Committee members stressed that funding is a necessary component of the plans to keep students and staff safe in the new academic year.

Collier County, Naples to discuss beach restrictions at public meetings next week” via Brittany Carloni of the Naples Daily News — Collier County and Naples will review government beach restrictions at public meetings this upcoming week. The city and the county have restricted open hours at public beaches since earlier this month due to concerns about maintaining proper social distancing and the spread of the coronavirus. City beaches are open from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to sunset on weekends. Only chairs are allowed from 5 p.m. to sunset on the weekend. Those restrictions in the county and the city will remain in place this weekend and until the Collier Commission and Naples City Council meeting next week.

State signs off on reopening Disney, SeaWorld” via News Service of Florida — Both theme parks have been shut down since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Both “established the necessary plans for the safe operation of its theme parks properties upon reopening.” SeaWorld is expected to reopen June 11. Disney is set to open the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom July 11, and reopen Epcot and Hollywood Studios July 15, according to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will begin to reopen June 22.

Return to roller coasters reveals new fears, old-school screams” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Near the beginning of this pandemic/lockdown/solitary confinement, I thought a roller-coaster ride would cure my angst and churning stomach. Nearly three months later, I boarded my first post-pandemic reopening coaster. In the process, I got a reassuring peek at what future ride experiences may be like. With Universal, SeaWorld and Disney days and weeks away from reopening, my first coaster option was White Lightning at the Fun Spot location near Orlando’s International Drive. What I saw: Workers in masks; a few guests with face coverings (they’re not required for visitors at this location); repeated cleaning of surfaces; and guides for social distancing, including ones into the Gator Spot attraction.

MLS union counters league plan to resume play in Orlando, report says” via Julia Poe of the Orlando Sentinel — Major League Soccer players have approved a plan to resume play in Orlando, asking MLS to agree to significant changes to its initial proposal. The MLS Players Association submitted the proposal to the league’s owners Friday after receiving enough votes from players. The league will now review the players’ proposal and decide whether to accept it or counter. The players previously had reportedly sent more than 100 questions to the league for review, with many speaking out against being isolated at ESPN Wide World of Sports away from their spouses and young children for months. The players’ vote on a revised plan is progress and could lead MLS resuming this summer after suspending competition due to coronavirus pandemic March 12.

Orlando Pride hold first full team workout since coronavirus shutdown” via Julia Poe of the Orlando Sentinel — The Orlando Pride hosted their first full-team training session since March on Saturday as the team gears up for the NWSL Challenge Cup in Utah at the end of June. The tournament is voluntary, and the Pride have yet to announce which players have agreed to compete in Utah. However, veteran stars Ashlyn Harris, Marta, Ali Krieger, Toni Pressley and Sydney Leroux all participated in the workout. Midfielder Emily van Egmond, who is completing a mandatory seven-day self-isolation after arriving from Australia, is the only player in Orlando who missed training.

Orlando Pride is holding its first full teamwork out since the coronavirus pandemic began.


12 deaths in Westside nursing home” via Clayton Freeman of The Florida Times-Union — The Florida Department of Health announced in its weekly report on long-term care facilities that a nursing home on Jacksonville’s Westside has recorded 12 deaths, five in the last week, from the coronavirus pandemic. Signature Healthcare of Jacksonville, located in the Hyde Park neighborhood, has now reported the most COVID-19 deaths for any facility in the Jacksonville area. The state had listed no deaths for the nursing home until the report of May 15, but has now counted five there in each of the last two weeks.

The Signature HealthCARE nursing home in Jacksonville has reported the most COVID-19 deaths in the area. Image via Signature HealthCARE.

With demand down, Wellington closes coronavirus test site” via Kristina Webb of The Palm Beach Post — With appointments down, Wellington officials are closing the novel coronavirus test site that opened May 13. The site was a partnership between Wellington, Palm Beach County and Premier Family Health, a medical practice with offices in Wellington Reserve on State Road 7. Wellington provided the location, the county provided the test kits and Premier staff ran the site. Tests were free, similar to county-operated sites. The site, at the Village Park gymnasium on Pierson Road, has tested hundreds of people since it opened.


Lenny Curry credits Trump, DeSantis for virus response” via Clayton Freeman and Christopher Hong of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville Mayor Curry praised the White House and Ron DeSantis for building the “foundation” for Jacksonville’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Curry was part of a panel of mayors from seven cities across the country, delivering a five-minute prepared speech and answering questions from members of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. Curry said DeSantis and Trump helped Jacksonville take actions to “flatten the curve and protect our health systems.” He said those actions prevented “dire situations like where we saw elsewhere.”

A police officer was stabbed in the neck and several others attacked Saturday at a riot over the death of George Floyd in Jacksonville. Image via Getty.

City cancels Sunday’s appointments for relief program” via Clayton Freeman of The Florida Times-Union — Some Jacksonville residents who were waiting for their appointments for the city’s relief program from the coronavirus pandemic will now have to wait another week. The City of Jacksonville announced that its Sunday appointments for the mortgage, rent and utility relief programs would be pushed back to next week. For people with last names beginning from A to M, the appointment will be at the same time June 6; for those with last names from N to Z, the new appointment will be at the same time June 7.

Checkpoints keeping out visitors come down in Florida Keys” via The Associated Press — Checkpoints leading into the Florida Keys are coming down two months after being set up to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. The checkpoints that are being removed early Monday were put into place in March to keep tourists from entering the chain of islands in an effort to blunt the outbreak. More than 18,750 cars coming from the mainland were turned away because drivers did not present the proper paperwork that showed they either worked or lived in the Florida Keys, said Kristen Livengood, a county spokeswoman.

Leaders worry social distancing guidelines could lead to child care shortages as parents go back to work” via Madison Arnold via the Pensacola News Journal — Some area leaders worry there may be a shortage of child care spots with camps and day cares running at reduced capacity to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Todd Thomson, president and CEO of the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, raised the issue to the Pensacola City Council. “The one thing that will be a challenge now that school is out is going to be child care,” Thomson told the council. “We may have to have some conversation, the city and county, all of us get together and figure out what we can do to support parents that need to have resources for their children during the summer.”

Coronavirus and telehealth: Tallahassee social workers counsel foster children remotely” via Nada Hassanein via the Tallahassee Democrat — Social workers are relying on telecounseling software for children in foster homes as social distancing continues. Six local agencies have conducted 3,000 virtual child welfare sessions, according to data provided from the telemedicine software group, Let’s Talk Interactive. About 30% of child welfare-related calls are from school staff. But with schools closed, some summer camps canceled and families quarantined at home, children may be suffering out of sight as cases fly under the radar. Child welfare agencies are lobbying to try to make it easier for children to report abuse — online.

Tallahassee residents find ‘free’ COVID-19 tests can carry a cost” via Lynn Hatter of WFSU — People going to get tested for the new coronavirus could come away with more than just a diagnosis. They might get a bill, too. This, despite the federal government’s effort to make COVID-19 testing and treatment free for insured and uninsured patients. Testing for the coronavirus is a lot more available today than it was a few months ago. Health plans are supposed to cover the costs of COVID tests and treatments. Some facilities accept one type of health plan, but not others, leading some people to have to pay.


Despite widespread economic toll, most Americans still favor controlling outbreak over restarting economy, Post-ABC poll finds” via Scott Clement and Dan Balz of The Washington Post — Despite the shared disruption of their daily lives since stay-at-home orders began, partisans differ sharply on how the country should move forward. In the starkest split, 57 percent of Americans overall and 81 percent of Democrats say trying to control the spread of the coronavirus is most important right now, even if it hurts the economy. A far smaller 27 percent of Republicans agree, while 66 percent of them say restarting the economy is more important, even if it hurts efforts to control the virus.

CDC chief defends failure to spot early coronavirus spread in U.S.” via Lena H. Sun and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defended the agency’s failure to find the early spread of the coronavirus in the United States, noting that surveillance systems “kept eyes” on the disease. “We were never really blind when it came to surveillance” for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, CDC chief Robert Redfield said. Redfield was among three CDC officials who spoke with reporters about a comprehensive analysis by the agency that found the coronavirus began spreading in the United States as early as the second half of January.

Researchers warn COVID-19 could cause debilitating long-term illness in some patients” via Brian Vastag and Beth Mazur of The Washington Post — Researchers are raising alarms that the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes will also leave in its wake a potentially large population with post-viral problems that could be lifelong and, in some cases, disabling. In addition to emerging reports of damage to lungs, kidneys and hearts, covid-19 patients are complaining of ongoing crushing fatigue, muscle pain, cognitive problems and other symptoms. Patients who have experienced post-viral fatigue syndrome advise the newly ill to rest, rest and rest some more, as returning to normal activities can trigger relapses.

Prison officials delay releasing federal inmates into home confinement, ‘thumbing their nose’ at judges and Congress” via Laura Cassells of the Florida Phoenix — Defying court orders and a directive from the highest law-enforcement officer in the land, federal prisons have been delaying the release of inmates presumed suitable to serve in home confinement during the coronavirus pandemic. At one low-security prison in Ohio, more inmates have died of COVID-19 than have been released early because of the coronavirus crisis, the records show. One federal judge said prison officials are “thumbing their nose” at the early-release efforts designed to get certain inmates out from behind bars in order to curtail coronavirus infections and deaths in federal prisons.

The pandemic isn’t over. But America sure seems over it.” via Dan Zak of The Washington Post — A summer of playing freely, of living dangerously. One hundred thousand dead, 40.8 million jobless claims. Not past it, but over it. “We can’t keep fighting the virus from our living room,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, clearly over it, said. “There is a pent-up demand” to resume normal life, said Trump, also over it, in the Rose Garden. “And you’re going to see it more and more.” What if the coronavirus surges back, because we’re all over it and having a summer, and we do die from this? If you meet a pandemic head-on in a hospital, it can look like everything. It can look like we won’t be over it for a while.

A woman takes part in a May 25 protest to reopen all New Jersey businesses. Image via Reuters.

Amid coronavirus concerns, dentists face a fraught road to reopening” via Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post — As states begin allowing dentists to resume treating patients, they navigate a complicated logistical reality: In conducting their duties in and around patients’ mouths, they land especially close to the respiratory system. Unlike doctors treating covid-19 patients, dentists are not considered front-line workers and until recent days had largely been left out of the nationwide triaging of personal protective equipment, according to interviews with leaders of several state dental associations. They are retooling their offices to meet new and stricter health and safety guidelines.

The safety problem for restaurants isn’t the dining room. It’s the kitchen.” via Annia Ciezadlo of The Washington Post — As customers head back out to eat at restaurants, most of the public discussion about safety is focusing on the front of the house where customers sit. Some restaurants are rearranging dining rooms. But in the back of the house, the part that most customers never see, a very different conversation is taking place. Chefs and other kitchen staff are quietly raising the alarm about the prospect of returning to what once passed for normal: chaotic, overcrowded, poorly ventilated kitchens where everyone is shouting, everyone is touching multiple surfaces and nobody has time for safety precautions when the front of the house gets slammed.

Why major sports might risk comebacks during the pandemic” via Matthew Futterman of The New York Times — After months filled with pessimism, hesitation, quiet planning and uncertainty about whether major sports would happen again in 2020, nearly every sport was preparing to come back, provided that work agreements with players could be negotiated and that public health authorities raised no objections. Player representatives, league officials, lawyers and business consultants who work closely with them say the sudden shift resulted from a mix of dramatic changes few could foresee a month ago. People who work closely with the leagues and team owners said, the financial consequences of not returning, potentially billions of dollars in losses across the leagues, made trying to come back vital.


Florida’s unemployed still haven’t been paid, and they don’t think it’s their fault” via Lawrence Mower and Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Over the past month, the Times/Herald interviewed 40 Floridians who have struggled to receive benefits during. Reporters spent hours on the phone, viewed screenshots of their claims and sent their names, phone numbers and claimant ID numbers to the Department of Economic Opportunity to verify if they were eligible. Of the 40 people, half have started to receive payments, department spokeswoman Tiffany Vause said. The rest are in the “review process” for state or federal benefits. Of the 22 people who agreed to be quoted in this story, three have been paid, all they say they’re owed by the state. All 22 disagreed with the Governor’s assessment. Some found it offensive.

Debate over $600 a week in jobless aid to intensify as unemployment claims rise” via Christopher Rugaber of the USA Today — A debate in Congress over whether to extend $600 a week in federally provided benefits to the unemployed looks sure to intensify with the number of people receiving the aid now topping 30 million, one in five workers. The money is set to expire on July 31. Democrats have proposed keeping the $600-a-week payments through January in a $3 trillion relief package. Senate Republicans oppose that measure. Some Republicans are promoting a plan that would provide $450 a week for laid-off workers who return to their jobs.

Coronavirus has caused the closure of a vast number of businesses, forcing an equally large number of unemployment claims. Image via AP.

College graduates of the pandemic, recession, is it too soon to compare?” via Robbie Gaffney of WFSU — As new graduates prepare to enter the workforce, some are finding their plans flipped upside down courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic. Others question if this could be a repeat of the hurdles faced by those who graduated during the Great Recession. However, it might be too soon to draw comparisons between the two time periods. The Pew Research Center surveyed more than 800 young adults in 2011, asking how they felt about their long-term plans. Almost half said they took a job they didn’t want to pay the bills. One-third said they went back to school due to a bad economy. And 31% postponed either getting married or having a baby.


Struggling to find happiness while you’re stuck at home? Experts say contentment is enough.” via Daniel Cordaro of The Washington Post — This is a time of extreme challenge, and there’s a lot to feel anxious about right now. For a lot of us stuck at home, it’s what we brought into the pandemic that’s causing us unnecessary suffering: an expectation of happiness. No, this doesn’t mean that misery is the answer. What this means is that pursuing happiness as a strategy for human well-being is not the ticket many people think it is. A study found the ancients almost never used the word happiness when talking about a good life. They used the word contentment, and described it as a state of “unconditional wholeness,” regardless of what is happening externally.

Keep your distance: How to stay safe from coronavirus at the pool and at the beach” via Jayme Deerwester, Veronica Bravo, and Curtis Tate of USA Today — Joseph Khabbaza, a pulmonary and critical care physician at the Cleveland Clinic, said the same practices for going to the grocery store or to a restaurant can also apply at the pool or the beach: Stay in your group and maintain social distancing. Khabbaza said outdoor activities can be relatively safer than indoor ones because of the opportunity to maintain distance. Don’t forget your mask, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Also, grab your own towel and your own beach toys or swimming gear.

Physicians explain how to stay safe from coronavirus at pools in the beach. Image via CNN.

In boom-and-bust San Francisco, pandemic brings grim new reality” via Romy Varghese of Bloomberg — In a city with a long history of booms, busts and natural calamities, the coronavirus pandemic has suddenly upended nearly a decade of prosperity. While municipalities across the U.S. are grappling with the economic fallout from the virus, San Francisco stands to take a deeper hit given its high concentration of office jobs that make remote working easier, a tech industry battered by layoffs and a pricey real estate market that has already driven out some residents. The city’s leaders predict a $3.6 billion budget shortfall over the next four years, with the unemployment rate to be around 15% through September.

Troll farms from North Macedonia and the Philippines pushed coronavirus disinformation on Facebook” via Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny of NBC News — One of the largest publishers of coronavirus disinformation on Facebook has been banned from the platform for using content farms from North Macedonia and the Philippines. The publisher, Natural News, was one of the most prolific pushers of the viral “Plandemic” conspiracy video, which falsely claimed that the coronavirus is part of an elaborate government plot to control the populace through vaccines, and erroneously claimed that wearing a mask increases the risk of catching the coronavirus. Facebook said that it had found foreign trolls repeatedly posted content from Natural News, an anti-vaccination news site.


Twitter had been drawing a line for months when Trump crossed it” via Kate Conger of The New York Times — Tensions between Twitter, and Trump had been running high for days over the president’s aggressive tweets and the company’s decision to begin labeling some of them. In his latest message, Trump weighed in on the clashes between the police and protesters in Minneapolis, saying, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” A group of more than 10 Twitter officials, including lawyers and policymakers, quickly gathered virtually to review Trump’s post and debate over the messaging system Slack and Google Docs whether it pushed people toward violence. After midnight, Jack Dorsey gave his go-ahead: Twitter would hide Trump’s tweet behind a warning label that said the message violated its policy against glorifying violence.

Trump is at war with the truth, not Twitter” via John Avion of CNN Opinion — Fact checks are not censorship. But that’s what Trump is claiming in his new assault on social media platforms: an overreaching executive order targeting social media companies, signed shortly after Twitter applied fact checks to two of Trump’s tweets. Twitter took a long-overdue step toward sanity by adding a fact check to his repeated baseless claims about voter fraud. This is a modest thing to flag against the backdrop of Trump repeating false suggestions that a cable news host committed murder, but we’ll take it as a sign of progress. the president’s comments about mail-in voting are especially insidious because they’re another attempt to reduce confidence in the integrity of our elections.

A husband’s response to a President’s smears” via Timothy J. Klausutis of the Pensacola News Journal — Lori Kaye Klausutis was a constituent services coordinator in the Fort Walton Beach office of Pensacola’s former Congressman Joe Scarborough. Tragically, Klausutis died in 2001 after fainting on the job due to undiagnosed heart complications. The medical examiner found that Klausutis “died as a result of an acute subdural hematoma which occurred as a result of a closed head trauma sustained in a simple fall.” She was working alone in the office that day and Scarborough was in Washington, D.C. at the time. Trump used Twitter to spread claims that Klausutis’ death was a murder committed by Scarborough and accused Klausutis of infidelity. Klausutis’ husband wrote an open letter about the President’s accusations.

D.C. on edge as anger over Floyd’s death launches protests through the nation’s capital” via Samantha Schmidt, Rachel Weiner and Joe Heim of The Washington Post — As demonstrators gathered at the U.S. Navy Memorial in the city’s downtown, Washington held its breath about what might happen here. By early evening, violent clashes erupted near the White House. Some angry protesters broke windows of police vehicles and hurled epithets and water bottles at law enforcement officers, who, in some instances, responded with batons and tear gas to push back the crowd. As night approached, there were no signs it would bring calm. A crowd gathered near the Capitol Reflecting Pool, shouting “let us breathe, let us breathe,” sweating in masks beneath the 85-degree afternoon sun.

Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi’s next battle: How to help the 40 million unemployed” via Marianne Levine and Sarah Ferris of POLITICO — The debate over whether Congress will approve a new round of pandemic aid is over. Now it’s just a question of what’s in the package. After brushing off Democrats’ demands for more relief, Senate Republicans now say the next major coronavirus package is likely to move in the coming weeks. And a key conflict ahead will be over how to help the 40 million Americans out of work. The outcome will determine not just how much help goes to the roughly 1-in-4 unemployed Americans but how the parties can position themselves in a fierce campaign in which Congress and the White House are up for grabs.

Assignment editors — Democratic U.S. Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel will take part in a Zoom news conference to call on the U.S. Senate to pass the Heroes Act, a coronavirus relief bill, 1:30 p.m. Registration at


DeSantis has the dream Supreme Court Republicans have always wanted” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — For all the accolades and credentials on the résumés of newly appointed Florida Supreme Court Justices John Couriel and Renatha Francis, perhaps the most consequential are their ages. Couriel and Francis are 42 years old. DeSantis is turning the state’s high court over to Gen X. His previous appointees were all born in the same era. And in tapping lawyers with the prime of their legal careers ahead of them, DeSantis has all but guaranteed that a generation of legal precedent will be forged by justices put in place by Republicans.

Nikki Fried smacks DeSantis for ‘failing to do his job’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis likely sees himself as an active Governor, but Fried says he isn’t getting it done. An email from Florida Consumers First, a political committee aligned with Fried, paints a grim picture of a do-nothing DeSantis, saying “our Governor needs to do his job.” The latest example of that pressure, or at least an attempt thereof, came during last week’s Cabinet meeting, in which the Commissioner’s attempts to get issues of priority to her addressed were thwarted by DeSantis.

Nikki Fried’s war of words with Ron DeSantis escalates.

Florida universities’ switch to online learning was tough — but could last for years” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Administrators at schools like UCF are saying in-person classes might begin again for fall, but end early just before Thanksgiving because students returning from holiday travel could bring with them germs from elsewhere. Students vented in a survey by UCF, with 43% saying they somewhat or strongly disagreed with the notion that they had “been able to adjust well to remote instruction.” About 18% said they had none of the resources or few resources they needed to complete their classes successfully.

Hospital, hospice projects get preliminary approvals” via the News Service of Florida — State regulators this week gave preliminary approval to three proposals for opening hospital and hospice facilities. Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital received approval for a 74,000-square-foot, 60-bed comprehensive medical rehabilitation hospital in Duval County that would cost $45.3 million. Cornerstone Hospice & Palliative Care, Inc. was given approval for a 19,750- square-foot, 20-bed inpatient hospice facility in Orange County that would cost about $11.6 million. VITAS Healthcare Corporation of Florida got approval for a 20,000-square-foot, 16-bed inpatient hospice facility in St. Lucie County that would cost about $9.6 million.

Hospital backed in medical malpractice dispute” via the News Service of Florida — A state appeals court backed a Brevard County hospital and other defendants in a battle about whether state medical-malpractice laws should govern a lawsuit stemming from the death of a woman in 2012. A panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal overturned a decision by a circuit judge who denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss the case. The dispute involves the 2012 death of Shannon Lawley, who was taken to the emergency room at what was then known as Wuesthoff Medical Center Rockledge. An emergency-room physician determined that she needed treatment in the intensive-care unit, but the hospital did not have available intensive-care unit beds. She was not placed in the intensive-care unit and ultimately died.

Court to move quickly on prison hepatitis case” via the News Service of Florida — A federal appeals court has agreed to move quickly in deciding a case about whether Florida should be required to provide expensive treatment to prison inmates who have been diagnosed with early stages of hepatitis C. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week approved a request by the state for “expedited” consideration of the case. The state asked for a decision by Sept. 8 because of the possibility that it will have to spend $28 million to address the treatment issue. The appeals court often takes longer than three months to decide cases after oral arguments. The case centers on the use of an expensive type of medication known as “direct-acting antivirals” to treat hepatitis C.

Unlocking the secret buried in Jeffrey Epstein’s Palm Beach County grand jury records” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — For more than 15 years, the justice system has allowed one of the most confounding mysteries surrounding serial child molester Epstein to remain shrouded in secrecy. The Palm Beach Post is headed to court this week to ask a Palm Beach County Circuit judge to ignore protests from State Attorney Dave Aronberg and Courts Clerk Sharon Bock and open long-sealed grand jury records to public view. It would help explain why grand jurors didn’t, as police recommended, charge Epstein with multiple child molestation crimes and instead indicted him for solicitation of prostitution.

How Southwest Florida colleges are tightening budgets and planning for fall semester” via Pamela McCabe of the Naples Daily News — Now that Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida Southwestern State College have stepped into the latest challenge, running totally online summer courses officials are eyeing an even bigger one: preparing for fall classes and the fiscal year to come. FGCU is taking a look at our operations to determine where savings can be made including freezes on hiring, travel and nonessential purchases as where the budget has already been tightened. The same struggle is felt at FSW, where the end-of-year budget was belted up to reduce spending.

Florida Gulf Coast University is among the Southwest Florida colleges that face fiscal challenges in the upcoming fall semester.

Experts say recent Naples legislation can help to preserve city’s past” via Andrew Wigdor and Brittany Carloni via the Naples Daily News — Legislation approved in Naples earlier this year could make it easier to preserve historic homes and keep the city’s past from being erased in favor of new development. In March, the previous Naples City Council voted to pass an ordinance that, among many things, can exempt property owners of historic homes in the Naples historic district from flood plain regulations and other rules when performing work on their homes. The Naples ordinance opens up the opportunity for property owners to dedicate money to rehabilitating or preserving a historic home in the city rather than tearing one down, said Elaine Reed, president and CEO of the Naples Historical Society.

Lynn Haven official’s plea deal gets scratched” via Tom McLaughlin of the NWF Daily News — U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle refused Thursday to accept a guilty plea from former Lynn Haven Community Services Director David Horton. He did so after Horton refused to acknowledge that he had knowingly conspired with four others to steal Hurricane Michael debris removal money from the city. “The facts the state says are true and the facts Mr. Horton says are true are different,” Hinkle said. “If he’s saying he’s not guilty we need to have a trial.” Horton was scheduled to go to trial on June 1. But as no federal court proceedings will be held in June due to the coronavirus, Hinkle set Aug. 3 as a tentative new date to try the case.

Investigator critical of Parkland administrators in school shooting, but district cleared them” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — An outside investigator described numerous failures by administrators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High that may have contributed to the 2018 shooting, but the Broward School District rejected the findings and cleared the employees. A committee of district administrators decided May 7 there was no just cause to discipline Ty Thompson, who was principal of the Parkland school at the time of the shooting or Assistant Principal Denise Reed. Both were reassigned from the school last year. The committee’s decisions were in stark contrast to the findings made by lawyer Jennifer Ruiz in investigations.

Pensacola Habitat for Humanity CEO Tim Evans departs without fanfare or explanation” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — Evans is no longer with the organization, the nonprofit confirmed this week. Evans joined the organization in 2011. Under his leadership, the Habitat affiliate has built over 600 homes, launched programs to improve local neighborhoods and created an annual summit to discuss issues such as affordable housing and community compassion and diversity. Evans drew a great deal of criticism in 2015 after Habitat sold a bundle of 57 properties to an Alabama developer at a fraction of their worth. Ten of the properties, chosen at random, were valued at more than $480,000.

Uber to debut ‘hourly’ service in Miami, Orlando, Tampa” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The ride-share giant announced its “Hourly” service, which will become available by June 2 to all riders in 12 U.S. cities, including Miami, Orlando and Tampa. Niraj Patel, Uber’s director of Rider Operations, said: “Hourly fits around your schedule flexibly for those moments if and when you prefer extra time and added peace of mind.” The service serves as an alternative to booking a sequence of one-way trips with different drivers over a brief period. Time can be scheduled in blocks in advance. Uber executives say this should offer a more guaranteed income to drivers themselves, who now can lock in time upfront rather than waiting for spontaneous alerts during periods when they make themselves available.

— 2020 —

The cracks in Trump’s GOP shield” via David Nather of Axios — Trump’s mockery of coronavirus masks, his false claims about the dangers of voting by mail and his insinuations that a cable TV nemesis was involved in a murder are testing more high-profile Republicans’ willingness to look the other way. Republicans learned a long time ago how dangerous it is to alienate Trump’s base, which is why any hint of disagreement, even a whisper, is so remarkable when it happens. Trump’s tweets prompted House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney to call on Trump to lay off.

Joe Biden eyes gradual return to the campaign trail” via Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg — Biden’s emergence from his house on Memorial Day was a test run for his return to the traditional campaigning that he thrives on, minus the handshakes, hugs and backslapping, as virus lockdowns ease around the country. Biden has stayed at home for more than two months. The timing of his basement exit would be propitious for Biden as Trump’s reelection effort continues to reel from the shaky coronavirus response and a souring economy with more than 40 million people unemployed. On the increasingly politicized issue of wearing protective gear, Biden has made a pointed contrast with Trump.

Joe Biden is looking to return to the campaign trail. Image via Bloomberg.

Trump said not a word to soothe a smoldering country. It’s time for Biden to step up.” via Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post — Minneapolis was still smoldering when Trump stepped into the Rose Garden for a hastily arranged event that the White House had advised would be a “news conference.” But the leader of a nation on edge did not take any questions from the assembled journalists about that tormented city, or the horrifying killing of an unarmed black man by a police officer that fueled the rage. Trump was declaring, essentially that his tweets said everything he had to say about the death of George Floyd and its aftermath.

In Floyd killing, Biden seeks to project empathy as activists and party leaders demand details” via Sean Sullivan, Jenna Johnson and Colby Itkowitz of The Washington Post — Biden took a deep, audible breath and in a somber voice revealed that he had just spoken with the family of Floyd. “The original sin of this country still stains our nation today,” said Biden, who had refashioned his website with one word at the top: “Enough.” During “weeks like this,” he said, “we see it plainly that we’re a country with an open wound.” The address was long on solidarity and short on details, encapsulating the presumptive Democratic nominee’s strategy for defeating Trump, presenting himself as the calm, empathetic alternative to the incumbent.

Minneapolis unrest shakes up VP shortlist” via Marc Caputo and Natasha Korecki of POLITICO — Law enforcement credentials once offered an appealing and protective sheen to a handful of the top prospects in contention to be Biden’s running mate. But three of those candidates, Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Val Demings and, most notably, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, now find their records under new scrutiny in a presidential race transformed in the wake of national outrage surrounding Monday‘s death of Floyd. As a Minneapolis-area prosecutor from 1996 to 2006, Klobuchar had already earned the antipathy of social-justice activists for her tough-on-crime record. Progressives are pushing a “Kamala is a cop” narrative. Demings, Orlando’s first female police chief, oversaw a department that has had a history of criticism for using excessive force.

NAACP calls out Chambers for favoring Trump” via Tom McLaughlin of the NWF Daily News — The Okaloosa County Branch of the NAACP has called out School Superintendent Marcus Chambers over Chambers’ endorsement of Trump. Branch President Lewis Jennings said in a statement that Chambers’ endorsement and criticism of remarks made by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden smacked of hypocrisy. “What angers the NAACP the most is not the superintendent’s support of the president; rather it is his misguided rationale for doing so,” Jennings said in the statement. Chambers also stood by his dislike of Biden’s comments on “The Breakfast Club.”

The NAACP is blasting Okaloosa County School District Superintendent Marcus Chambers for supporting Donald Trump.

Black Americans have a message for Democrats: Not being Trump is not enough” via Astead Herndon of The New York Times — In an on-camera address after a week of destructive protests, former Vice President Joe Biden pleaded with his audience to imagine life for black people in America. Imagine, he said, “if every time your husband or son, wife or daughter left the house, you feared for their safety.” Imagine the police called on you for sitting in Starbucks. The coronavirus pandemic has continued to disproportionately kill black people, and a spate of high profile killings in recent months in Georgia, Kentucky, and Minnesota, the latter two at the hands of the police, led to widespread demonstrations nationwide.

Lessons from Bush v. Gore from two former Florida Supreme Court Justices” via Barbara J. Pariente and Peggy A. Quince for the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida Supreme Court became the epicenter of the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Despite our best efforts at the time, not every vote cast in Florida was counted. When the United States Supreme Court issued its order stopping the recount the Florida Supreme Court had ordered, only 537 votes out of the 5.9 million votes cast separated the candidates. Our court’s first opinion in the Bush v. Gore litigation emphasized this point: “The right to vote is the right to participate,” we said, but more than that, “it is also the right to speak” and “most importantly the right to be heard.”


Maybe Tom Lee didn’t make friends, but he made a difference” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — Tallahassee is about to lose one of its most enigmatic and complicated characters. Lee submitted his resignation from the Florida Senate, effective Nov. 3. Although Lee didn’t immediately confirm the reason, there is wide speculation he will enter the suddenly crowded field to succeed the retiring Pat Frank as the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court. Lee brought a lot of things to the game that the Legislature needs and will miss. Start with the fact Lee didn’t always play the “go along to get along” game, even with members of his Republican Party. He was a maverick if he believed the situation called for it.

Tom Lee may not have made a lot of friends, but he certainly got the job done. Image via Colin Hackley.

Full slate of Democrats expected to run for Florida Senate, House” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Democrats submitted candidates in a handful of still uncontested legislative races. Rachel Brown confirmed from a Black Lives Matter protest in Fort Myers she submitted paperwork to challenge Republican Ray Rodrigues for Senate District 27. Additionally, Democrat Angela Hoover said she filed to challenge Rep. Jayer Williamson in House District 3, Annie Huff confirmed she’s in against Rep. Brad Drake in House District 5, and Dushyant Gosai plans to battle Rep. Ralph Massullo in House District 34. By the end of the day, party activists expect a full roster of Democratic House and Senate candidates. That’s something unseen in Florida in more than a quarter-century.


We are a nation furious at injustice.” via Joe Biden for Medium — These last few days have laid bare that we are a nation furious at injustice. Every person of conscience can understand the rawness of the trauma people of color experience in this country, from the daily indignities to the extreme violence, like the horrific killing of George Floyd. Protesting such brutality is right and necessary. The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest. We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us.


If we had a real leader” via David Brooks of The New York Times — If we had a real leader, he would have realized that tragedies like 100,000 COVID-19 deaths touch something deeper than politics: They touch our shared vulnerability and our profound and natural sympathy for one another. In such moments, a real leader steps outside of his political role and reveals himself uncloaked and humbled, as someone who can draw on his own pains and simply be present with others as one sufferer among a common sea of sufferers. Trump’s problem is not only that he’s emotionally damaged; it is that he is unlettered. He has no literary, spiritual, or historical resources to draw upon in a crisis.

There seems to be nothing our black sons and daughters can do to remain alive” via Donna F. Edwards for The Washington Post — Floyd is the latest in a too-long list of black men and women who have died at the hands of white police officers. Ahmaud Arbery was jogging when neighborhood vigilantes chased him down, shot and killed him. Christian Cooper was bird-watching in New York’s Central Park when a white woman walking her dog tried to weaponize 911 to bring law enforcement to bear on a black person. There can be no column long enough for all the names, over hundreds of years of enslavement and decades of Jim Crow, of the victims of the violence perpetrated under the color of law against black people in America.

Florida’s democracy operates in the dark. DeSantis wants it that way.” via Nikki Fried for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida is one of the nation’s most unique states, for a wide variety of reasons. One of those is how we’re governed. We’re the only state with a Cabinet that constitutionally governs together over numerous state agencies. Time after time, we’ve seen the Governor’s office and his agencies refuse to answer questions or release cases, data and other public information until forced to by the media or public pressure. Were it just one incident, it might be understandable. But it’s been one issue after another on which this Governor has lacked transparency.

Why kids should go straight back to school” via Andreas Kluth of Yahoo Finance — Policymakers all over the world must now weigh the different risks and come to a decision. The right one is to get the kids back into their classrooms. And not just partially, as schools are doing in Berlin, where children rotate in and out of their physical classes in a complex and staggered pattern for specified hours or days, depending on their grade. Ask parents or children, or at least those who have access to online learning, and most will say that this stop-go education is more stressful and less effective than schooling was during the total lockdown.

Immunity for negligent businesses during COVID crisis is a bad and dangerous idea” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Politicians in Florida are talking about giving businesses a pass on that responsibility with “immunity” measures to protect businesses from lawsuits. They want to deny you the chance to hold a business accountable for its actions. The business lobby has been salivating over immunity long before this coronavirus came along. The pandemic is just a convenient cover. Try to use the fear and anxiety over a virus that killed 100,000 Americans and crippled the economy to pass laws lobbyists have been craving for decades. It’s an attempt to chip away at your constitutional right to access the one branch of government (judicial) that often keeps check on the other two.

Falling for the DNC trap” via Douglass Bacon for the NWF Daily News — Everything was going along just fine for the Democrat power brokers. With a large field of presidential nominee aspirants, none would be able to command the necessary votes on the convention floor to win the nomination at the first go-round. Smelling blood, the Republicans fell for this trap like a ton of bricks. Rather than discretely ignoring Joe’s weaknesses, they now talk about them incessantly through the media and in the halls of our Congress. If they want the Democrats to nominate a terrible and absolutely beatable candidate, they should soft-pedal criticism now, wait until he is nominated and then go full throttle.

Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince: Why every vote counts and every vote must be counted” via Florida Politics — Twenty years ago this November, we were two of the seven Florida Supreme Court justices who decided a series of cases arising from Bush v. Gore. In this role, we witnessed firsthand how essential it is to protect the right of all citizens to have their votes counted. But despite our best efforts at the time, the fact remains that not every vote cast in Florida was counted. As we approach the 20th anniversary, we are reminded of its important lessons that, in our democracy, every vote should count, and every vote must be counted. One important step to guaranteeing that every citizen can exercise the right to vote is easy access to vote-by-mail.

There’s a new virus of judicial activism rampant in Florida’s Supreme Court” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — This new Florida Supreme Court, the one that is packed with Federalist Society members who mouth paeans to “judicial restraint,” decided this month that the four-year-old opinion from their own court no longer applies. In a nutshell, the new court decided that If you got sentenced to die in Florida by a standard that later has been found to violate the Eighth Amendment’s guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment, too bad. You can’t get a do-over. And to make things worse, the Florida Supreme Court made this monumental ruling to sidestep the U.S. Supreme Court while only five of the seven members on the Florida court were seated.


After a weekend of violence during protests against police brutality, Gov. DeSantis has called out the National Guard: 150 Guardsmen were sent to Miramar, 100 to Tampa and 150 to Camp Blanding, the Guard’s headquarters.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— There were disturbances across the state: Miami, Tampa, St. Pete, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando and even Tallahassee.

— As more than 200 people marched peacefully through the capital city, the driver of a red pickup truck decided to drive through. The truck hit several marchers, but none appear to have any serious injuries. Police immediately surrounded the truck and whisked the driver off to jail. Tallahassee Mayor John Daily issued a statement that concluded with: “The peaceful protesters have my unwavering support and I unequivocally condemn any violence toward protesters.”

— Welcome to Day One of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. If it seems a bit belated, that’s because there were already two named storms. Also, the state sales tax holiday for disaster supplies is now underway. It lasts until Thursday, so now is the time to stock up for storms.

— Remember a time when they advised everyone in Florida to have a three-day supply of food, water and meds during hurricane season? The new recommendations a weeks’ worth, because the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the supply chain.

— Speaking of coronavirus, DeSantis says they’re taking COVID-19 tests to the public. Home Depot and Publix are setting up micro-testing sites in parking lots starting in South Florida. But the focus remains on adult-living facilities which are the most dangerous places to live during the pandemic. Almost half the fatalities in Florida were residents or staffers of long-term care.

— We may learn if Trump is moving the Republican National Convention out of North Carolina because he doesn’t like their social distancing requirements. DeSantis wants the convention in Florida.

— Checking in with Florida Man and Florida Woman: one tried to steal a house with a piece of paper. The other tried to ship cellphones to ISIS for making pressure bomb detonators. It did not end well for either.

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— ALOE —

‘The Highwaymen’ movie prepares for production in Florida” via Kathleen Christiansen of the Orlando Sentinel — A new movie called “The Highwaymen” will be one of the first Florida-based films to begin production once the COVID-19 ban is lifted. The film tells the true story of how a group of 25 young African American men and one African American woman overcame discrimination in segregated 1960s Florida by teaching themselves how to paint and creating more than 200,000 paintings that would later be identified as the “last great art movement of the 20th century.” Produced by Orlando-based motion picture production company Stars North, the movie is directed by award-winning director Todd Thompson with the screenplay written by South Florida natives Lucien Christian Adderley and Richard ‘Byrd’ Wilson.

Once the COVID-19 ban is lifted, a movie celebrating the African American art movement of The Highwaymen will begin filming.

FAMU journalism major chosen for NBC’s ‘Meet the Press: College Roundtable’” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Aiyana Ishmael, a rising senior broadcast journalism major in the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication at Florida A&M, is one of three college journalists featured Friday on NBC’s debut of “Meet the Press: College Roundtable.” The five-part series brings together college journalism students from across the country for a weekly, virtual panel discussion on issues of importance to them, their communities and the future of their education and features national newsmakers. It is moderated by Chuck Todd, NBC News political director and moderator of “Meet the Press.”

Power Five leagues ask Congress for athlete compensation law” via Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press — The Power Five conference commissioners are asking Congress to move forward with federal legislation regarding compensation for college athletes. The commissioners of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference sent a letter dated May 23 to congressional leaders. They encouraged federal lawmakers to not wait for the NCAA process to play out before passing a national law that would set parameters for college athletes to be compensated for use of their names, images and likenesses. Last month, the NCAA signed off on recommendations that would make it permissible for college athletes to make money for personal endorsements, appearances and sponsorship deals.


Happy birthday to Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeff Burlew and Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs Executive Director Danny Burgess.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
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