Ocoee mayor sidesteps condemnation of Neo-Nazi rally over weekend
Johnson said he "didn’t know anything" about group’s demonstration
Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson refused to condemn the recent Neo-Nazi demonstration in Orlando despite given several opportunities to do so at Tuesday’s city commission meeting.
Here’s what happened. At the end of every city commission meeting, each commissioner gets 10 minutes to share information with attendees at the meeting and community. Commissioner Larry Brinson, who represents District 1, used his time to condemn the “bigotry, racism and hatred” of the past weekend’s events, which took place right after International Holocaust Remembrance Day Jan. 27.
A small group of Neo-Nazis demonstrated Jan. 29-30, shouting “The Jew is the Devil,” “Jews rape children and drink their blood” and “Jews brought slaves here.” Demonstrators also flew swastika flags from an I-4 overpass and assaulted a Jewish man who got out of his car to confront them. In addition, several HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities), including Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach and Florida A&M in Tallahassee, were targets of coordinated bomb threats on Monday and Tuesday, the first day of Black History Month. (Additional threats occurred earlier in January.)
“I condemn the actions of those persons who conceived, planned and carried out these actions throughout the eastern seaboard and the south,” Brinson said. “This is something that is so troubling to me because I have been fighting for justice my whole life. And here we are again. I am 57 or so years of age, and we’re still having the same conversations. We must stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.”
Johnson said he didn’t know what Brinson was referring to. “Which thing are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about all of the white supremacist groups throughout the country this weekend,” Brinson responded.
Political leaders from both parties, Rep. Val Demings, Sen. Rick Scott, State Rep. Anna Eskamani — though not Gov. Ron DeSantis — condemned the Neo-Nazi rally.
“I didn’t hear anything about that,” Johnson said. “I did see where police officers were shot. I thought you were talking about that.”
Johnson was likely referring to two New York City police officers who were shot and killed responding to a domestic call in Harlem last week.
Johnson added a few more comments before he closed the meeting. They seemed to be in response to Brinson’ earlier statements, though he did not address white supremacy or the Neo-Nazi demonstrations.
Here is what Johnson did say:
“I watch the news too. I don’t particularly care for watching people ransacking people’s businesses. If you make comments about that stuff, let’s get on board and watch what goes on in the United States. When you got a city where they can go rob the trains and take all the guns, take the guns and rob the stores, go in and take a hammer and beat the jury box open, steal all the stuff and just walk out the door. That’s okay. They don’t want a law. No one wants to put ‘em in jail or put them under arrest. I don’t understand that. The lawlessness of this country, it’s got to the point where it’s dangerous to do anything.
“And just like the two police officers who got killed up there last week, and a lady on the street made a comment that said, They must have done something wrong to get killed. Now folks, there’s something wrong with a person who makes those comments.”
When he finished speaking, VoxPopuli asked Johnson if he wanted to condemn the Neo-Nazi demonstration in Orlando on Saturday.
Johnson said that the reporter “can’t talk from the floor.” Then he said that he “didn’t know who it was. I never heard of it,” adding that he was talking about “who killed the police officers. That wasn’t Nazis.”
After the meeting, VoxPopuli asked Johnson one more time if he wanted to condemn the Neo-Nazis who demonstrated in Orlando over the weekend. Johnson maintained that he “didn’t know anything about that.”