By John Haughey | The Center Square
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday authorized the deployment of 500 state National Guardsmen to Washington, D.C.
DeSantis made the announcement during an Orlando news conference, indicating President Donald Trump requested the state’s guardsmen.
“The federal government has helped Florida out in many different ways, including, obviously, before I was governor, so I felt it was important to step up and help out,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis mobilized 700 Florida National Guardsmen on Sunday and Monday at the behest of local officials in Miami and Tampa after violence marred weekend protests. He did not indicate whether the 500 guardsmen, who will arrive in Washington on Wednesday afternoon, are those previously mobilized or additional call-ups.
DeSantis addressed the nationwide demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s Memorial Day death while in Minneapolis police officer custody for the first time in remarks after previously issuing only a brief statement.
“When I saw the video of the cop murdering George Floyd, I was absolutely appalled,” DeSantis said, noting he consulted with Florida law enforcement officials to confirm knee-on-neck restraint is cause for termination and prosecution by state and local agencies.
“Everyone agrees that is totally intolerable what happened,” DeSantis said. “There was a breakdown in that police department. You have to look at swift accountability.”
With a dozen municipalities under sustained curfews and protests continuing in many Florida cities throughout the week, the governor said “the gatherings” across the state have been mostly peaceful since the weekend.
“There have been respectful gatherings with large crowds with isolated incidents, usually late at night,” he said.
DeSantis said a man “trying to sell Molotov cocktails out of his car” was arrested in Tampa and another man was arrested with “mortars in his backpack” in Plant City in the past few days.
About 2,000 demonstrators protested outside Orlando City Hall on Tuesday evening and then marched about a mile to Orlando Police Department headquarters, where, about an hour after the city’s 10 p.m. curfew went into effect, officers used tear gas and smoke when “a few remaining participants” threw rocks and bottles at them.
DeSantis said there were 28 arrests in Orlando on Tuesday, including a man who “tried to stab” a police officer.
The governor thanked the state’s law enforcement officers and local leaders.
“I also want to thank the peaceful demonstrators, some of whom have helped to stymie attempts” to incite violence, DeSantis said.
In Miami, about 400 people marched Tuesday afternoon from Overtown, a historically black neighborhood north of downtown, and sat on one knee and different locales as about 30 officers in body armor followed them. There was no violence.
In St. Petersburg, a police officer suffered a minor injury when about 200 protesters descended on police headquarters around 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Demonstrations also happened for the first time in Key West and Coral Springs on Tuesday.
Sarasota Police has placed an officer on leave after video surfaced of a May 18 incident in which he put his knee on a handcuffed man’s neck for an extended period.
Former Orlando Police Chief and U.S. Rep. Val Demings said the nation will not be free of racial violence until it addresses the “ghost in the room.”
“We have got to acknowledge, sometimes painfully, that racism is still the ghost in the room,” Demings told Florida Politics.
“This is not a black problem, although black people are at the fore of it. It’s about disparate treatment of African Americans in this country. But that is an American problem. And it’s going to take everybody to, number one, admit it, and, number two, to change it,” she said.