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'You're not welcome here!' DeSantis booed at vigil for Jacksonville shooting victims

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, speaks at a prayer vigil on Sunday for the victims of a mass shooting that took place Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla.
John Raoux
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AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, speaks at a prayer vigil on Sunday for the victims of a mass shooting that took place Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla.

Updated August 28, 2023 at 9:59 PM ET

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was booed and heckled on Sunday while attending a prayer vigil in Jacksonville for the three victims killed in what authorities say was a racially motivated attack at a local Dollar General.

DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, and his wife were among those who gathered in Jacksonville's Grand Park neighborhood to commemorate the victims of the Saturday shooting. But not everyone was pleased that the governor was there.

As DeSantis approached the podium to speak, some people in the crowd began to boo; one person yelled out, "You're not welcome here." Later, someone shouted, "Your policies caused this," according to videos of the event. As governor, DeSantis has loosened the state's guns laws, and curbed efforts to teach Black history in public schools.

DeSantis attempted to continue speaking, mentioning that the state was "looking at identifying funds" to bolster security at Edward Waters University, a nearby historically Black school that the gunman visited hours before attacking the Dollar General.

But as the boos and heckling grew louder, DeSantis stopped talking mid-sentence. Jacksonville councilwoman Ju'Coby Pittman stepped in and addressed the crowd.

"Put parties aside," Pittman said. "A bullet don't know a party."

DeSantis' office did not respond to a request for comment. On Monday, the governor's office directed$1 million toward campus security at Edward Waters University and $100,000 to support the families of the three shooting victims.

A biohazard cleanup vehicle is parked outside the Dollar General store where three people were shot and killed the day before on Aug. 27.
Sean Rayford / Getty Images
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Getty Images
A biohazard cleanup vehicle is parked outside the Dollar General store where three people were shot and killed the day before on Aug. 27.

On Saturday, a white gunman opened fire inside a Dollar General, killing three Black community members: Anolt "AJ" Laguerre Jr., 19; Jerrald De'Shaun Gallion, 29; and Angela Michelle Carr, 52.

Sheriff T.K. Waters said the attack was racially motivated and that the gunman, Ryan Palmeter, 21, left behind "manifestos" that suggested he "hated Black people," before he killed himself.

The Department of Justice is investigatingthe shooting as a hate crime and "an act of racially motivated violent extremism."

During his remarks on Sunday, DeSantis called the shooting "totally unacceptable," saying, "We are not going to let people be targeted based on their race."

But the attack has brought renewed scrutiny to the governor's record both on guns and race.

In April, the governor signed a permitless carry billinto law, which allows people to legally carry a firearm without training or a background check. After this weekend's shooting, the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP urgedthe state legislature to reconsider the law.

DeSantis has also cracked down on diversity initiatives and the teaching ofBlack history in public schools over concerns of "woke indoctrination."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: August 28, 2023 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this story said that Florida's new permitless carry law allows people to legally own a firearm without training or a background check. In fact, the law applies to carrying a gun.
Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.

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