Two members of Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ staff on Wednesday compared a Jacksonville protester — who made a nonviolent stand refusing to leave a press conference — with the rioters last year who battered their way into the U.S. Capitol killing one police officer and injuring scores of others.
Police arrested activist Ben Frazier, 72, before DeSantis’ press conference Tuesday in Jacksonville after he and other protesters refused instruction to leave before the Governor arrived. Frazier and the others had said they wanted to confront the Governor about his positions on critical race theory and other topics.
The arrest — Frazier was led away in handcuffs in front of gathered journalists, saying, “Why am I being handcuffed?” — led some Democrats, notably Rep. Angie Nixon, and House Democratic Leader-Designate Ramon Alexander of Tallahassee, to criticize DeSantis for standing by as police arrested a political critic.
The Florida Democratic Party also put out a statement calling Frazier a “civil rights leader, activist, and journalist who was arrested for exercising his First Amendment rights.”
Chairman Manny A. Diaz said, “In Ron DeSantis’ Florida, constitutional rights only seem to be respected for people who agree with the Governor and his political agenda.”
When asked about the incident after his remarks, DeSantis said he had “no idea what happened.”
After Nixon’s and Alexander’s comments (but before Diaz’s,) DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw and another member of DeSantis’ communications team, Kyle Lamb, responded on Twitter, ridiculing Democrats for sticking up for a trespasser.
They drew parallels between the Jacksonville incident, with Frazier, and the Jan. 6, 2021, riots, in which protesters smashed windows and doors, stormed the U.S. Capitol, fought with police, killing one and injuring 140 others, vandalized and stole property, caused lawmakers to flee for their lives, laid siege for hours, and endeavored to stop Congress from certifying that Democrat Joe Biden had been duly elected President.
“It’s almost the anniversary of J6, and Democrats in my replies are insisting that government buildings should always be open to any member of the public who wants to confront an elected official, and nobody should be arrested for trespassing in a government building! Wow!” Pushaw tweeted.
“I’m eager to see these folks admit all the J6 protestors should have been allowed in the Capitol for the electoral college discussion,” Lamb tweeted.
Pushaw later elaborated, telling Florida Politics, “Mr. Frazier and his defenders claim that citizens are always allowed to protest elected officials ‘in a public building.’ The U.S. Capitol is a public building as well, and participants in the January 6 protests have been arrested for trespassing, which refutes the widespread liberal argument that protesters at press conferences in state buildings have the right to disrupt and impede government officials.”
When asked by Florida Politics if it was her understanding that the Jan. 6 incident was about people trespassing in a public building, Pushaw replied, “That is exactly what some of the protesters were charged with, so it’s apparently the understanding of judges in that jurisdiction.”