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Jacksonville activist handcuffed and removed ahead of DeSantis COVID-19 press conference

The Florida Channel
Ben Frazier, member of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, is handcuffed and removed from the Florida Department of Health in Duval County's administrative building on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

A group of activists who showed up ahead of a press conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday were forced to leave before the governor appeared to speak.

“He does not want to meet with this public. He wants to run away and duck his tail between his legs,” shouted Ben Frazier, with the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, an economic, racial and social justice advocacy group. “He doesn’t want to meet with the people. What about the voice of the people?”

Frazier was among several other local activists who were waiting for the governor and state health officials to speak at the Florida Department of Health in Duval County's administrative office.
“This is a public meeting. This is a public official. This is a public building. We have a right to be here. And we are not moving,” Frazier said.

Soon after, Frazier was handcuffed and escorted out of the building.

Frazier had previously explained to members of the governor’s staff that those gathered at the event had questions for DeSantis about his response to the pandemic.

A staff member responded that the governor's press conferences aren't open to members of the public who haven't been screened.

The state's Sunshine Law doesn't guarantee the public the right to attend press conferences that aren't public meetings with two or more elected officials of the same governing body.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.