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Jacksonville activist led away from governor's COVID update in handcuffs

Posted at 10:51 AM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 14:54:56-05

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A community activist who said he was displeased with Gov. Ron DeSantis' handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was led away from the Duval County Florida Department of Health building in handcuffs Tuesday morning and cited for trespassing.

The man, identified as Jacksonville-area community activist Ben Frazier, was part of a group of citizens who appeared before DeSantis' scheduled update, where he was to speak with Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, M.D.

"This governor is the enemy of the people," Frazier said as a person with the governor's office tried speaking with him. "Is the governor afraid to meet the people? We are his constituents," he continued as officers moved in to place him in handcuffs.

Earlier in the morning as press were setting up cameras, a woman stood at the lectern meant for the governor and held a handwritten sign. Among other complaints, it demands more vaccines and testing sites in Florida and is directed towards the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

A woman holds a sign demanding more testing sites and vaccines.

Before being detained, Frazier and other members in the group were asked to show press credentials. It is not clear if any member of the group had previously been permitted to be in the press conference.

Governor DeSantis did conduct his planned update, albeit from a nearby building. He then traveled to Naples for another briefing from the Florida Health bureau there.

State Democratic leaders were quick to denounce Frazier's arrest. "“The hypocrisy of Governor DeSantis’ ‘Free State of Florida’ was on full display today," said Tallahassee Rep. Ramon Alexander. It’s only free if you agree with him, and you can only attend his events if you are a cheerleader for his political ambitions. You’re free to catch the virus in Florida, but don’t you dare question the Governor’s policies."

"Public service is the people’s business and the Governor must answer for his failings," Rep. Angie Nixon added. "The treatment of Mr. Ben Frazier, a disabled civil rights activist and member of my community, was shameful and appalling."