Two journalists with the news arm of progressive political organization Occupy Democrats were forcibly removed from a press conference at Miami Dade College in downtown Miami, Florida, on April 12, 2022.
Executive Editor Grant Stern told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he and Reported Opinion Columnist Thomas Kennedy were alerted to a press conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñes via email from the governor’s press office. Stern said both he and Kennedy sent emails confirming that they would attend the press conference, but received no response. Stern told the Tracker that due to Kennedy’s activist activities prior to his work for Occupy Democrats, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement compiled a dossier on Kennedy and his known associates in 2020 and functionally blacklisted him from attending the governor’s press conferences.
When reached for comment, Kennedy said that politicians in Florida too often pick and choose which press to engage with, and that his emails to RSVP for press conferences are routinely ignored.
“Then, when we get [to the press conference] they tell us we’re not on the list or we haven’t gone through the proper credentialing. They could say ‘no,’ which I think is unfair and selective, especially when it’s not a campaign event, but they don’t even bother to do that,” Kennedy said.
When the pair arrived on April 12, they were directed to the media area at the back of the room alongside other members of the press.
Before the event began, DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, approached the press area with other staff members and multiple law enforcement officers. In footage shared on Twitter by NBC reporter Marc Caputo, another woman can be seen approaching Kennedy and asking him whether he is a member of the press; Kennedy responds that he is.
The woman says that Kennedy isn’t on their RSVP list and that because he did not go through their screening process he must step out of the room. At least three police officers then roughly guide Kennedy out of the room as he voices a question for DeSantis.
In footage posted by Miami Herald reporter Bianca Padró Ocasio, Pushaw can be seen pointing out Stern to a man who appears to also be acting as security for the event as Kennedy is led away. Moments later Stern is directed to leave the press conference as well.
“Do you suspect me of committing a crime?” Stern can be heard asking an officer before walking out of the room. “I sent an RSVP, I am a member of the press: I am an editor of a national publication called Occupy Democrats.”
Stern told the Tracker he asked the officers for the names and badge numbers before the pair left to report on their removal.
DeSantis’ office did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
The governor’s office has barred press from covering press conferences or bill signings on at least three other occasions since March 2020, including an incident in August 2021 when Stern was forcefully removed from a press conference with DeSantis and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The Tracker documented that incident here.