It’s no secret many Florida police are uneasy about a bill that advanced in Tallahassee yesterday to allow residents to openly carry firearms. In fact, the only reason the Sunshine State is still one of six states prohibiting open gun-toting is because the Florida Sheriffs Association has vigorously opposed such laws in the past.
So it’s not a huge shock that Lt. Javier Ortiz, president of Miami’s police union, lashed out at the proposal last night. What’s raising eyebrows, though, is Ortiz’s argument: namely, that if it passes, militant black activists will use the law to threaten cops.
Ortiz took to Twitter last night to direct his feelings about open-carry at Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Panhandle Republican — along with his dad, Sen. Dan Gaetz — who sponsored the new legislation. Ortiz began with a pretty reasonable complaint:
That tweet echoes the Sheriffs Association’s talking points through the years. Many cops believe that more guns on the street equals more violence.
But then Ortiz banged out this followup:
Say what? Gaetz quickly replied that Ortiz’s critique was in bad taste:
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) October 7, 2015
And Gaetz knows something about racially tinged Twitter backlash. This past May, Gaetz found himself in a firestorm after singling out three black legislators and joking that they were responsible for typos in a Democratic court filing.
But Ortiz has an even longer history of making racially dubious remarks. Two months ago, he made national news by slamming a black woman who had filmed an instance of alleged police brutality. He posted screen caps of what he claimed was her Facebook page and accused her of hanging out with “young men with handguns.”
Ortiz has been a loud defender of Officer Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who killed Michael Brown. And earlier this year, the union president spread rumors that MPD Assistant Chief Anita Nijay, a black woman, was a Muslim.
Ortiz’s Twitter feed isn’t exactly a bastion of political correctness either. In July, he retweeted this gem:
So what is Ortiz talking about with the Black Panthers? The group has become a favorite fear-mongering tool among right-wing internet types. (Just check out the Black Panthers section at Snopes.com, which has myth-busted recent rumors about everything from Michelle Obama wearing a Panthers shirt to the group plotting 9/11 massacres.)
In fact, the black militant group essentially disbanded by the early 1980s. A loosely affiliated offshoot cropped up in Texas a decade later but hasn’t really spread beyond there. Members of that group did hold an open-carry protest against police brutality earlier this year, but compared to some of the tense showdowns that mostly white open-carry groups have sparked in Texas, it was a tame affair.
So why single out the supposed threat of Black Panthers to police? In a response to New Times, Ortiz didn’t back down from the tweets, but directed his ire at Gaetz for sponsoring the bills:
I don’t believe the Florida Sheriffs Association has endorsed this bill. If that was the case, the Miami FOP’s position is we don’t need open carry on the urban streets of Miami. In some of our areas within the City of Miami where poverty and blight are prevalent, the good residents of that area are threatened on a daily basis with gun violence. They don’t need the bad guys publicly brandishing weapons at them while they commit crimes.We also don’t need cop wannabes (AKA George Zimmermans) putting our communities at risk. Matt Gaetz’s bill is bad in every aspect. #alllivesmatter
Matt Gaetz needs to go on a ride-along in Liberty City. Gaetz is pretty brave on Twitter. It’s different when you’re walking the crime-ridden streets of Liberty City in the late evening. The kids in the neighborhood say that when the streetlights turn on, it’s time to stay inside. Publicly displaying a gun won’t keep you safe. The bad guys on the street will just take it from you.