Two journalists with the news arm of progressive political organization Occupy Democrats were barred from attending a press conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis in Miami, Florida, on Sept. 22, 2022.
Editor-at-Large Grant Stern told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he and Reported Opinion Columnist Thomas Kennedy learned about the press conference after DeSantis put it on his public agenda. The pair was ultimately stopped before they could enter the venue at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus.
In a video Kennedy posted on Twitter of the interaction, a person he identifies as a Miami police detective says he and Grant have already been advised they are not welcome. “You’re not invited. You’re not press.”
Officer Roberto Heredia Rubio subsequently told the journalists that it was a private event and that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement instructed the officers to prevent them from entering.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, DeSantis signed two bills into law that day aimed at combating foreign influence in Florida’s universities and increasing the penalties for selling trade secrets, particularly to foreign governments.
Stern told the Tracker that during the interaction, another officer at the venue refused to identify himself and then began filming them on a cellphone. Stern requested that the officer send him a copy of the recording in compliance with the state’s public records law. The officer refused and forced them to exit the building under threat of arrest.
“This is the second time that an officer from the City of Miami has responded to me making an on-the-spot records request with retaliatory conduct,” Stern said. “There’s a pattern and practice of civil rights violations in Miami.”
The governor’s office has barred press from covering press conferences or bill signings on at least four other occasions since March 2020, including an incident in April when both Stern and Kennedy were forcefully removed from a press conference with DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñes. The Tracker documented that incident here.