Equality Florida Denounces Governor DeSantis for Abusing Power to Silence Dissent

Equality Florida Denounces Governor DeSantis for Abusing Power to Silence Dissent

TALLAHASSEE, FL --  In another brazen abuse of his power, Governor Ron DeSantis is threatening the licensure of Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna, a champion for equality who has rightly been critical of the governor’s assaults on education, freedom, and the LGBTQ community. The move comes at the behest of Moms For Liberty extremists, who penned a message to DeSantis complaining that the superintendent was promising to defend educators in the district from right wing slander and political attacks. Superintendent Hanna, who has filed to run for a third term, notified school district employees of the attack on his career via email, writing, “all I ever wanted to do was help young people in life.”

“Governor DeSantis is a petulant bully who has repeatedly wielded the power of the state against those who dare speak out about his assaults on freedom, equality, and democracy,” said Brandon Wolf, Equality Florida Press Secretary. “This time, he is attempting to abuse his power to attack Superintendent Rocky Hanna, a celebrated schools leader and stalwart champion for the students and families of Leon County Schools, to muzzle him and intimidate others who may consider speaking up. Free states do not retaliate against locally elected leaders to silence dissent. And free state governors are not thin-skinned tyrants who terrorize those who dare speak out against them. This is more targeted retaliation and an outrageous abuse of power from Governor DeSantis, who, from Disney to our school boards, has made wielding state power to target political enemies a hallmark of his administration.”

Governor DeSantis started a trend that has accelerated nationwide. Montana House Republicans voted to censure State Representative Zooey Zephyr — one of the state’s first openly transgender lawmakers — which bars her from the House floor for the rest of the legislative session. In Tennessee, State Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were temporarily expelled from the state’s legislature for joining students’ calls for gun safety reform after the recent school shooting in Nashville that left three children and three adults dead. 

The threats of retribution are just the latest in Governor DeSantis’ years-long onslaught against democratically elected leaders across the state. He recentlydeveloped a political “hit list” of 14 school board members he is targeting in 2024 in an effort to further eliminate dissenting voices. And last year, the governor removed Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren for issuing statements disagreeing with cruel policies aimed at restricting reproductive freedom and the rights of transgender Floridians, an ouster that was ruled illegal by a federal judge.

“DeSantis has crossed an ethical line and arguably a legal one as well,” explained Wolf. “From banning books to forced pregnancies, government censorship, and anti-LGBTQ attacks, DeSantis is undermining democracy and inflicting harm that will outlast his political career. It is time for leaders who have feared his retaliation to speak up.”

The governor has also waged war on businesses that challenge his authoritarian agenda. Most infamously, the DeSantis regime sharpened the state government into a weapon against Walt Disney World, going so far as to dissolve a local government to punish the corporation for speaking out against the bigoted Don’t Say LGBTQ law. That blatantly unconstitutional political retribution has now led the company to sue the governor. In addition, DeSantis has weaponized the Department of Business and Professional Regulation against small and large businesses that host drag performances, opening investigations into R House, an LGBTQ-owned restaurant in Miami, and the Broward Center for Performing Arts, and moving to strip the liquor licenses of The Plaza Live in Orlando and the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Miami.

All of the governor’s assaults on democracy and freedom are part of his flailing bid to outflank Donald Trump to shore up the right wing base of the Republican Party and secure the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.


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