Jacksonville pastor John Allen Newman has expressed regret for allowing Florida governor Ron DeSantis to speak at a vigil remembering the lives of Black victims in a racially motivated shooting at a Dollar General store, which took place last month.
DeSantis’ presence at the vigil, which took place one day after the Aug. 26 shooting, was not welcomed. When DeSantis was given a microphone to address the crowd, he was met with booing and heckling.
In the wake of the racist shooting, DeSantis has been criticized for his ongoing “war on woke,” which many argue has emboldened hatred toward communities of color. DeSantis’ anti-woke agenda has largely centered on policies targeting the perceived use of critical race theory (CRT) in school curriculums, as well as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training in government agencies.
Newman, who serves as pastor of The Sanctuary @ Mount Calvary Church in Jacksonville and who emceed the vigil, has now said that it was a mistake to allow DeSantis speak at the event.
The vigil was organized by Jacksonville city council member Ju’Coby Pittman, who had asked Newman to help lead it. Newman said in an interview with News4Jax that DeSantis had not been invited to the vigil, and his moment at the microphone was “a fluke.”
According to Newman, Pittman alerted him to the fact that DeSantis would be present shortly before the event, adding, “There was not a lot of lead time from finding that out.”
Newman went on to express that when the time came, he misread the event’s program. While DeSantis’ presence was meant to be acknowledged, Newman ended up handing DeSantis the microphone.
“That was my mistake, by misreading the program,” Newman said.
During the same interview, Pittman addressed the backlash she has faced for her attempt to calm the crowd after the vigil attendees began loudly booing DeSantis.
“I will tell you that the crowd, they had every reason to be angry, upset, because of what had happened the day before,” Pittman said. “But unfortunately, I have been criticized, threatened about the whole situation.”