Press Release

AFT Officers Speak Out Against Hateful, Racist Shooting in Jacksonville, Fla.

For Release:


Oriana Korin

WASHINGTON—Following reports of a hate crime yesterday where a gunman killed three people in a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Fla.—allegedly after first targeting Edward Waters University, a historically Black university—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus and Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram released the following statement condemning the attack. The union represents more than 150,000 educators, school staff and higher education faculty across Florida:

Weingarten said:

“Our hearts break for the victims, their families and the entire Jacksonville community in the face of these horrific, racist murders. It has not gone unnoticed that the murderer had a swastika on his rifle and had expressed racist hatred toward Black people. Florida has become a hotbed for the toxic brew that is radical bigotry and access to guns. And while it’s good the governor has condemned this hateful, racist murder of three souls, just this past May the Florida Legislature passed, and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed, a new law allowing carrying concealed loaded guns without permits, just one of a slew of policies taking the state in the wrong direction.

“The disgusting irony is that while this gunman was on his rampage, thousands of others gathered peacefully in Washington, D.C., on the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, to continue the work for justice for all. We must do far better when it comes to keeping people safe—in our communities, on our streets, and in the places we learn, shop, worship and gather.

“Gun violence is a threat to all of us, but access to guns, combined with elected leaders who create an environment that pretends racism doesn’t exist, creates a precarious situation for communities of color and others who are the target of violence and vitriol. It’s far past time to ban assault weapons and continue the real work to educate our neighbors and heal the divisions at the heart of this hatred.”

DeJesus said:

“We cannot keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. As long as both unfettered access to guns and racial animus are not only allowed to persist but encouraged by the highest level of elected officials in Florida, our kids, grandkids, parents, grandparents, friends and loved ones will continue to be terrorized by gun violence and racism run amok. As educators, we demand action to stop the madness, and we hold everyone who has been affected in our hearts.”

Ingram said:

“Make no mistake, the families, friends and communities grieving across Jacksonville today did not have to suffer this way, and we continue to pray for them. In Florida, folks can carry a gun without a permit, and Black families are watching in horror as their history is whitewashed. But instead of healing those divides, elected officials continue to dismantle the very fabric of the state’s Black communities, putting them directly in harm’s way. Just a few months ago, the NAACP released a travel advisory, saying that Florida ‘has engaged in an all-out attack on Black Americans, accurate Black history, voting rights, members of the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, women’s reproductive rights, and free speech, while simultaneously embracing a culture of fear and bullying.’ This tragedy is a direct result of the bigoted, shortsighted policies of Florida’s governor and Legislature, and makes it abundantly clear that this state needs far more than thoughts and prayers: It needs action, far beyond increased security on communities that are already targeted. Our state is now home to some of the worst mass shootings this country has seen, and while we live and work in terror, Florida’s leaders continue to put politics over the lives of Floridians. Enough is enough.”

# # # #

The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.