Thursday, May 23, 2024

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: DeSantis’s ‘Freedom Summer’ means no rainbow lights for Florida bridges (WaPo)

"We must make the world safe for diversity." -- President John F. Kennedy, June 10, 1963, American University.  On June 7, 2005, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr. ordered the City of St. Augustine to fly 42 Rainbow flags on our Bridge of Lions and seven along the Bayfront, honoring the First Amendment rights and centuries of LGBTQ+ history here.  Rude crude Dull Republicans never miss an opportunity to show us who they are: haters.  God forgive them.  Hope someone sues Governor RONALD DION DeSANTIS, our rude crude Boy Governor. From The Washington Post:

DeSantis’s ‘Freedom Summer’ means no rainbow lights for Florida bridges

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration is blocking cities from using rainbow lighting on bridges for Pride Month and other events.

Updated May 21, 2024 at 7:29 p.m. EDT|Published May 21, 2024 at 6:51 p.m. EDT
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge in St. Petersburg, Fla., is lit up with rainbow colors for Pride Month in June 2021. (Martha Asencio-Rhine/Tampa Bay Times/AP)
4 min

As part of what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is calling “Freedom Summer,” his Transportation Department has told cities across the state that if they want to light up their bridges at night, they can only use the colors red, white and blue.

The order — which was shared by Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue on social media recently — means that bridges across the state that normally illuminate in colorful arrays of light to mark holidays or awareness events won’t be able to use any other colors from May 27 through Sept. 2.

“As Floridians prepare for Freedom Summer, Florida’s bridges will follow suit, illuminating in red, white, and blue from Memorial Day through Labor Day!” Perdue wrote on X. “Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida continues to be the freest state in the nation.”

A number of bridges across the state prominently display rainbow colors in honor of Pride Month in June, among other celebrations throughout the year. Many see the order to display only red, white and blue as another move against the LGBTQ+ community, which has been targeted by a number of DeSantis-backed laws in recent years.

“The bridge lights were about celebrating diversity and inclusion, which will continue to happen in our communities,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith, Equality Florida’s senior policy adviser. “LGBTQ Floridians will proudly raise our flags even higher and our lights will only shine brighter in the darkness they’ve created.”

The Ringling Causeway Bridge over Sarasota Bay usually lights up in rainbow colors for a week in June, and also marks other causes during the summer, such as orange for National Gun Awareness Month and yellow for Women’s Equality Day.

Sarasota Mayor Liz Alpert said the city typically gives the state Department of Transportation, which operates the bridge, a list of colors that it would like to display for various events at the beginning of the year “and they generally do it.”

“It’s very popular,” Alpert said about the different colors illuminating the 2.6-mile-long span. “But the state has control of the bridge, so we don’t control the lights.”

Perdue’s office and DeSantis’s communications office did not return requests for comment.

DeSantis originally declared July to be a “Freedom Month Sales Tax Holiday” for Floridians to save money on outdoor recreation equipment and also on entrance fees to state parks and museums. At the time, the governor’s office said nothing about bridge lighting.

But after Manatee County Commissioner Mike Rahn, whose county borders part of Tampa Bay, objected to a rainbow display on the iconic Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Perdue issued the order for only red, white and blue lights on bridges statewide.

Rahn declined to address the controversy, saying only in an email in response to questions from The Washington Post that “the Governor and the Secretary of Transportation have made the decision that all bridges in Florida will be lighted Red, White and Blue from Memorial Day through Labor Day.”

Most of Florida’s 12,881 bridges don’t have sophisticated color lighting systems, but residents in communities that do enjoy the displays, city leaders say.

“People are disappointed,” Alpert said.

In Jacksonville, the colorful illuminations on the Acosta Bridge, one of the city’s seven bridges across the St. Johns River, are regarded by many residents as a form of public art. The Jacksonville Transportation Authority uses its “dynamic LED lighting system” on the span throughout the year to mark dozens of holidays and awareness campaigns.

Among those are 10 different lighting combinations in the summer, including rainbow colors for Pride Month; red, black and green for Juneteenth; and pink, blue and red to celebrate the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, the city’s minor league baseball team.

“Whichever bridge you’re on, you can see those colors, shining bright from that bridge. And it really is a beautiful sight,” said Kimberly Allen, the CEO of 904Ward, an advocacy group in the city that promotes diversity and inclusion. “When we acknowledge things like Juneteenth, or our local sports team, that’s part of what adds to the vibrancy of the city.”

Having officials in Tallahassee order them to use only three colors of the state’s choosing does a disservice to local communities, she said, especially when that decision cancels other displays city leaders approved, such as for Pride Month and Juneteenth.

“I think the undertones of this are what’s haunting,” Allen said. “Why at this moment, in this month, why is that happening now?”

Lori Rozsa is a reporter based in Florida who covers the state for The Washington Post. She is a former correspondent for People magazine and a former reporter and bureau chief for the Miami Herald. Twitter

No comments: