More than half of Florida’s elected sheriffs have signed a letter calling on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum to withdraw his pledge to Dream Defenders, which the sheriffs describe as a radical, anti-police organization.
The issue surfaced again during Wednesday night’s debate at Broward College in Davie.
Gillum’s opponent, Republican Ron DeSantis, once again was critical of the Democrat for his connection to groups like the Miami-based social justice group Dream Defenders. The group’s platform claims police have no place in society.
“It doesn’t get more divisive than the Dream Defenders, and Mr. Gillum has not condemned the Dream Defenders,” DeSantis said during the second debate.
The group, formed after the controversial shooting death of Trayvon Martin, espouses open borders and states on its website that police are racist and have no place in society. It has likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to an “Apartheid” system.
In their letter, the sheriffs urge Gillum to “immediately and unequivocally withdraw your pledge to the organization, Dream Defenders. After learning of this organization’s disturbing and anti-law enforcement position and statements, we believe that any candidate wishing to lead our state should in no way be aligned with this radical group.”
“I am proud of the more than 35 Sheriffs who are calling on my opponent, Andrew Gillum, to once and for all disavow the Dream Defenders pledge that he signed,” said DeSantis. “In last night’s debate, Andrew Gillum once again skirted the issue. The pledge he signed says he supports the Freedom Papers, the very manifesto that attacks our state’s police officers.”
Gillum has said he doesn’t support all of the views of the Dream Defenders but he has shared an alliance with the group primarily over his opposition to the state allowing private prisons to be operated in Florida and his support for the abolishment of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Phillip Agnew, co-founder of the Dream Defenders, recently said in an interview with Democracy Now that the group considers Gillum “part of the movement.”
But a spokeswoman for the Dream Defenders told the Miami Herald last month that the organization and Gillum disagree on certain topics, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the role of police and prisons, and the functionality of borders.
“We are more left-leaning than Gillum,” said Nailah Summers. “He doesn’t believe in everything we believe in, but he’s still the best option for Florida.”
But the sheriffs who signed the letter to Gillum asking him to rescind his pledge to the group say it goes too far.
“The pledge you signed not only calls for you to defund police and prisons, but the papers that accompany this pledge wrongly claim, ‘Police were never meant to protect and serve me and you…Police and prisons have no place in ‘justice’…Police and prisons aren’t just racist but they work to enforce the separations of rich and poor.’
“We believe you will agree that anyone seeking to be Florida’s next Governor should support the men and women who put on a badge daily and risk their lives to protect their communities,” the sheriffs wrote.