GOP presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday directed $1 million to bolster security at a historically Black college near the site of what authorities deemed a racially motivated shooting that killed three Black people at a Dollar General in Jacksonville over the weekend. The governor also pledged $100,000 to help the families of those shooting victims.
“We are not going to allow our HBCUs to be targets for hateful scumbags,” DeSantis said in a written statement. “I’ve directed my administration to use every resource available to ensure the Edward Waters campus is safe following this shooting and to help the impacted families as they mourn their loved ones.”
Over the weekend, DeSantis “vehemently condemned the horrific, racially-motivated murders in Jacksonville near Edward Waters University,” the governor’s office said in a press release.
The governor announced an initial, immediate award of $1 million through the Volunteer Florida Foundation to bolster campus security at Edward Waters University in addition to an award of $100,000 to help the impacted families of this tragedy.
The announcement comes a day after DeSantis was met with boos at a Jacksonville vigil for the victims Sunday. Jacksonville City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman, a Democrat, interjected to defend DeSantis, urging the crowd to “set parties aside,” because “it ain’t about parties today” and a “bullet don’t know a party.”
DeSantis paused campaigning, canceling stops in South Carolina over the weekend to return to deal with dueling crises in his home state.
“Before I get into Idalia, we do have an update on the Jacksonville shooting. I was working with some of the local officials, as well as the president of Edward Waters College, to see what kind of support we can provide. So I’m pleased to be able to announce we’re going to be able to do $1 million to Edward Waters College to increase security on campus,” DeSantis said at a press conference Monday. “As I’ve said for the last couple of days, we are not going to allow our HBCUs to be targeted by these people. And so we’re going to provide security help with them. We also have FDLE [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] on site today evaluating security on campus and making recommendations for any additional infrastructure improvements.
“Also, per the request at yesterday’s vigil, we’re able to do $100,000 to the charity that is supporting the victims families,” DeSantis added. “And those funds are all coming from Volunteer Florida. So we’re going to continue to work with those folks in the days and weeks ahead.”
At the White House press briefing Monday, Director of Public Engagement Stephen Benjamin, the former mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, responded to a reporter who asked if the Biden administration saw “any connection with the changes that the Florida governor has made in teaching about African-American history to the kind of violence that we saw in Jacksonville.”
In response, Bejamin said the president’s decision to establish the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument in Mississippi and Illinois last month “was meant to make sure people understand that we cannot rewrite American history, that we have to tell the good with the bad, and that is edifying to the soul of this country.”
“The president, since day one, as you’ve heard him talk about his personal reaction to Charlottesville, redeeming the soul of America’s central to who Joe Biden is as a man and why he chose to run for president as a candidate,” Bejamin said. “I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that that trying to rewrite American history is not only wrong, but also encourages our children and those among us not to lean in to the beautiful and also painful past what our history looks like and encouraging people to move forward together.”
Starting Sunday, FDLE began visiting the campus, providing additional security including during the vigil, and began monitoring social media for any additional threats. On Monday, FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass is visiting with EWU President Dr. A. Zachary Faison Jr. to begin the assessment of the campus’ security infrastructure.
DeSantis has directed Volunteer Florida “to release the funds as quickly as possible to help the Edward Waters University community and the impacted families,” the governor’s office said.
The governor has also remained in contact with the university president, Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan and Sheriff T.K. Waters “to ensure that the community has the resources they need as they process this tragedy,” the press release added.