Af­ter nearly 70 years, Florida Clemency Board par­dons Grov­e­land Four

The Bradenton Herald - - Front Page - BY SAMAN­THA J. GROSS [email protected]­ami­her­ Her­ald/Times Tal­la­has­see Bureau

Af­ter nearly 70 years, all mem­bers of the Grov­e­land Four — four young black men falsely ac­cused of rap­ing a white woman in Lake County — were par doned by a unan­i­mous vote Fri­day.

The Florida Cabi­net met for the first time as the state Clemency Board Fri­day, where it heard from fam­ily mem­bers of the men who were ei­ther im­pris­oned, tor­tured or mur­dered by mobs and a racist sher­iff. The Grov­e­land Four mat­ter was only sup­posed to be up for dis­cus­sion and fam­i­lies were not ex­pect­ing to hear a vote Fri­day. But at the very end of the meet­ing, Gov. Ron De­San­tis called for a vote.

“I be­lieve in the prin­ci­ples of the Con­sti­tu­tion. I be­lieve in get­ting a fair shake,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any way that you can look at this case and see jus­tice was car­ried out.”

Some call the treat­ment of the four men one of the worst episodes of racism in Amer­i­can his­tory. In 1949, a 17-year-old white woman and her es­tranged hus­band told po­lice that she’d

Florida Chap­ter Direc­tor Frank Jack­alone called the omis­sion short-sighted. “If you’re build­ing the sea walls and do­ing noth­ing about the cause [of sea rise], then you have to come back 10 years later to build a sea wall again.”

But Curbelo says De­San­tis’ cre­ation of a re­siliency of­fice and a chief sci­ence of­fi­cer po­si­tion are part of con­ser­va­tive Amer­ica’s slow move to­ward ad­dress­ing the is­sues posed by cli­mate change. Not­ing that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment bears the true re­spon­si­bil­ity of curb­ing the car­bon emis­sions that are in­creas­ing global tem­per­a­tures, Curbelo said the cre­ation of a state re­siliency of­fice gives the many South Florida com­mu­ni­ties try­ing to adapt to ris­ing seas a part­ner in state gov­ern­ment and rep­re­sents an im­por­tant step for Repub­li­cans across the coun­try.

Ad­min­is­tra­tors at the city of Mi­ami, for ex­am­ple, were pleased to hear De­San­tis’ an­nounce­ment. The city has sev­eral ar­eas that are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to ris­ing sea lev­els, and mul­ti­ple neigh­bor­hoods re­quire ex­pen­sive projects to drain and adapt ex­ist­ing roads and prop­er­ties. Jane Gil­bert, Mi­ami’s own chief re­silience of­fi­cer, said the city has al­ready started con­ver­sa­tions with the state on in­vest­ing in coastal green in­fra­struc­ture. Hav­ing a sym­pa­thetic voice in the gover­nor’s ear could cer­tainly help.

“Florida is a lead­ing in­di­ca­tor in terms of how the Repub­li­can Party is evolv­ing on this is­sue,” Curbelo said. “And to­day, Gov. De­San­tis coura­geously be­came a part of that evo­lu­tion and he should be rec­og­nized for it. Florida will be bet­ter off thanks to his ac­tions.”

De­San­tis, who is 40 and has two chil­dren, told re­porters Thurs­day that he’s try­ing to do what he can now in the time he has as gover­nor to ad­dress the slew of en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems cur­rently ail­ing the state. De­San­tis’ press of­fice did not re­spond to a ques­tion about the gover­nor’s thoughts on whether cli­mate change poses an ur­gent prob­lem. But he did re­flect a lit­tle Thurs­day in Braden­ton on the press­ing na­ture of the state’s chal­lenges, and how im­por­tant it is for his ad­min­is­tra­tion to leave the state bet­ter than how they in­her­ited it.

“We only have a lim­ited amount of time on this earth,” he said. “We’ve got to make the most of it.”

Florida Mem­ory Project

Lake County Sher­iff Wil­lis McCall, left, and an uniden­ti­fied man stand next to Wal­ter Irvin, Sa­muel Shep­herd and Charles Green­lee.

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