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Freshman Florida state representative under fire for ‘openly calling for violence’

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George Floyd protests in Orlando, photo by Newsbreak

By John Haughey | The Center Square

State Rep. Cindy Polo filed an ethics complaint Monday against Rep. Anthony Sabatini for “openly calling for violence” against protesters, a potential violation of Florida House rules.

In a tweet Saturday, Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, posted a photo of an AR-15 and wrote, “Attention potential ‘protesters’ coming near Lake County, FL. This is an AR-15 — this will be a very common sight upon illegal entry at any Lake County business — FYI!”

View image on Twitter

In her complaint, directed to House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, Polo, D-Miramar, said, “This kind of dangerous language and behavior should not be tolerated. It threatens the safety of U.S. citizens exercising their constitutionally protected rights of assembly and speech to highlight the everyday injustices the black community faces. Inciting violence is abhorrent, and those who encourage it should be held accountable for their irresponsible actions.”

Rule 15.1: “By personal example and by admonition to colleagues whose behavior may threaten the honor of the lawmaking body, the member shall watchfully guard the responsibility of office and the responsibilities and duties placed on the member by the House. To this end, each member shall be accountable to the House for violations …”

Rule 15.2: “A member shall respect and comply with the law and shall perform at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and independence of the House and of the Legislature. Each member shall perform at all times in a manner that promotes a professional environment in the House …”

“Rep. Sabatini’s comments are clearly inflammatory to an already volatile situation, and damaging to the integrity of the Florida House of Representatives,” Polo said. “His behavior is contrary to good order and discipline. It is our responsibility, as written out in our own rules, to admonish him and insist he behave responsibly and with integrity.”

Sabatini drew fire from Democrats for Twitter comments Friday in which he said, “Lock up every one of these disgusting, lawless thugs destroying the city of Minneapolis. They should each be arrested and prosecuted to the FULL extent of the law. Shame on the politicians that pander to this destruction!”

Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, responded by questioning who the “thugs” were.

“You mean these thugs, Rep?” Jones asked with a link to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz saying he suspected white supremacist groups and drug cartels were carrying out some of the violence in Minneapolis.

The Florida Democratic Party followed with a complaint asking Twitter to “remove this account for violence,” But, as Sabatini tweeted Monday: “@FlaDems — EPIC FAIL in your attempt at censorship! Maybe there still is some hope for @Twitter. Oh — and good luck continuing to defend the THUGS who are beating police officers and burning buildings — not sure that will help you this November!”

Sabatini repeatedly has drawn attention for alleged racist behavior and comments.

In October, a photo surfaced of the 31-year-old dressed in blackface as a high school student. In June 2018, before his election to the Legislature, Sabatini “liked” a Facebook post with two apes and Charlton Heston in a “Planet of the Apes” movie clip with the caption: “Valerie Jarrett flanked by some NRA guy and a Muslim Brotherhood grand poobah …”

As a Eustis City Commissioner, Sabatini called for all Confederate statues removed nationwide to be moved to his city. Fellow commissioners said Sabatini’s suggestion did “not represent the commission as a whole.”

The Florida Democratic Party also called for Sabatini to resign earlier this year.

”Gov. DeSantis … and Leader Jose Oliva should do the right thing and ask for the resignation of Rep. Anthony Sabatini. In calling out racist behavior, Florida Democrats and Republicans should stand united,” read the statement.

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