State Rep. Kamia Brown, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, flanked by state Rep. Travaris McCurdy (left) and state Sen. Randolph Bracy, with supporters, gather outside of McCurdy's MetroWest office Friday for a press conference to denounce what they say is the "blatantly unconstitutional" congressional district map signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Legislative Black Caucus blasts DeSantis’s congressional map as 'blatantly unconstitutional'

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By
Norine Dworkin

Editor-in-Chief

Saturday, April 23, 2022

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State Rep. Kamia Brown, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, flanked by state Rep. Travaris McCurdy (left) and state Sen. Randolph Bracy, with supporters, gather outside of McCurdy's MetroWest office Friday for a press conference to denounce what they say is the "blatantly unconstitutional" congressional district map signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“What you have seen from the governor has been thug-like behavior.”


State Sen. Randolph Bracy did not mince words at a Friday press conference, denouncing Gov. Ron DeSantis who wrested control of Florida’s congressional redistricting process from the legislature.


The governor had rejected a map drawn by the legislators, which had broad bipartisan approval, and submitted his own proposal — the first time a Florida governor is believed to have done so since Reconstruction, according to The Tributary, a northeast Florida journalism collective. During a special three-day session, the GOP-controlled legislature Thursday passed his map, which DeSantis signed into law the next day.


Immediately, the League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matter, Equal Ground, Florida Rising as well as a dozen voters filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the map.


Black lawmakers have cried foul because the DeSantis map eliminated two traditionally Black districts, which flies in the face of the protections for minority-held seats guaranteed in the Florida Constitution. It also gave Republicans an overwhelming advantage in upcoming congressional races, another no-no since districts cannot be drawn to clearly favor one party or the other.


“Our job as legislators and his job as governor is to uphold the law,” said Bracy. “But he is intentionally breaking the law. He is breaking federal law, and he is breaking our own state constitution … We will not let him get away with it.”


Rep. Kamia Brown, D-Ocoee, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus who led Friday’s press conference, slammed the DeSantis map as a “blatant attempt to favor the Republican party and to systematically disenfranchise Black voters and their voices in Congress.


“This was a direct attack not only on Black voices and voters but also on democracy itself,” she said. “I think the governor forgets that in a democracy, power does not go from the top to the bottom, it goes from the bottom up.”


The day before, Black Democratic lawmakers staged a sit-in on the House floor, temporarily halting debate on the map in the chamber. The sit-in was led by state Reps. Travaris McCurdy, D-Orlando, and Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville, wearing matching Black T-shirts that said, “Stop The Black Attack.”


The lawmakers and their supporters plunked down on the state seal in front of the Speaker’s rostrum, singing “We Shall Overcome.” Republican lawmakers left the chamber. Echoing the late civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis, Nixon shouted, “We’re causing good trouble; necessary trouble,” according to PBS.org. Republicans eventually returned and passed the map even as the protest continued.


“It was an attempt to disrupt the process because the process is disrupting the lives of so many people in the state of Florida,” McCurdy said Friday of the sit-in.


“It seems the governor’s political ambitions, his desire to be president, is always on the backs of Black people,” he continued. “When you talk about the anti-protest bill, the mentions of CRT [critical race theory], it’s always a direct attack on Black people. This [redistricting] process is too crucial for me, I felt personally, to come back home and tell my people we did all we could without trying to disrupt the process.”


McCurdy said press conferences were held simultaneously throughout the state by other Black Caucus members “to let the people know that we need you to stand with us.” He listed three key things people could do: “register to vote; being engaged; actually vote.”


“If we’re going to stop this dictatorship of governing in the state of Florida," he said, "it’s up to the people.” 

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