If you were reluctant to peek out from under the covers this past week, it’s understandable. The past seven days were equal parts combustible, exhilarating, terrifying, hopeful, and baffling.
Throughout the state, people demonstrated outrage over the death of George Floyd with protests that were mostly peaceful but sometimes did get out of hand.
The state’s part-time resident, President Donald Trump, put the “duh” in Flori-DUH with his bizarre photo op at a Washington church.
And police in Tampa and St. Petersburg detained two Tampa Bay Times reporters with zip ties who were doing their jobs by covering protests.
They were quickly released, but c’mon. This has to stop.
But there was good news, too.
The peaceful protests helped open a needed dialogue about the role police play in our society. That can only help.
People are returning to work and play, and state universities recently announced plans for in-person instruction.
There is so much to process in so little time.
But let’s get on to our weekly endeavor of noting the winners and losers in the state.
Honorable mention: Florida Democrats. For the first time in 20 years, the Dems have candidates for all 160 state House and Senate races.
It’s too soon to say if that means they will turn at least one chamber in Tallahassee blue, but they’re in the game.
Republicans have held a lock on both houses of the Legislature for more than 20 years, but in these turbulent times who can say for sure what voters will do in November?
At least the Dems are giving them a choice.
Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: The city of Orlando. O-town got a little of its mojo back when Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld all announced reopening plans.
The National Basketball Association will resume operations at Disney with a 22-team tournament starting July 31.
And if that’s not enough, U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando may be on a shortlist to be Joe Biden’s running mate. Her star is ascending.
But there can only be one champion. And so…
The biggest winner: Peaceful protestors. Yes, the protests about racism and police behavior got out of hand at times. Clearly, some of the lootings that accompanied the protests came from outside agitators interested only in stealing and destroying.
But the vast majority of marchers did it the right way with a message that needs to be heard. There is systemic racism that must be addressed. There are valid complaints that African-Americans face police scrutiny and harassment that whites don’t fully understand.
Now there can be dialogue and change.
That’s as big of a win as anyone could hope.
Dishonorable mention: The Florida Highway Patrol. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles fired two Highway Patrol troopers who made racist remarks directed at protesters.
The agency didn’t reveal specifics, but Sen. Jason Pizzo tweeted that it involved this statement from a now-former trooper: “Gas them, beat them, do whatever you have to do to get these negroes under control.”
Yikes. That kind of attitude is what the protests are about, you know?
“This conduct is not in any way reflective of the Troopers and employees of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles,” the department said in a statement. “The men and women of this department have been entrusted to serve and protect all residents and visitors of Florida, and this abhorrent and reprehensible conduct will not be tolerated.”
Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Anyone who thought COVID-19 had gone away. Even as Gov. Ron DeSantis green-lighted Phase 2 of his reopening plan, Florida experienced a large spike in virus cases.
It’s a cautionary tale for anyone who believes the virus operates on our time schedule. It plays by its own rules and punishes the foolhardy.
Yes, the state is trying to get back to business, and that’s understandable. But experts advise that people remain cautious and continue to take safety measures. This is still a thing, folks.
The biggest loser: Backers of the proposed amendment to ban assault weapons. The state Supreme Court ruled that the wording of the proposal was misleading, so it won’t be on the ballot in November.
The 4-1 ruling centered on a few words in the amendment language. It read the measure: “[e]xempts and requires registration of assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to this provision’s effective date.”
Organizers held that would allow people who own assault-style weapons to keep them. The judges disagreed. They said the language exempted the weapon, which could allow it to be transferred, so it’s back to the drawing board.