Fired Scott Israel Makes Appeal to Community at Black Church as Broward County Gets First Black Sheriff in Gregory Tony

Scott Israel, who was suspended as Broward Sheriff on Friday, speaks during a news conference at Mount Olive Baptist church in Fort Lauderdale. (Carline Jean / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

For more than a century, the church now known as the New Mount Olive Baptist Church has been a centerpiece of life in Fort Lauderdale’s African American community. With more than 10,000 members it remains integral to the neighborhood around Sistrunk Boulevard.

That puts it at the heart of the most Democratic-leaning demographic in the most Democratic-leaning county in Florida. With their back against the wall, Democratic politicians have often come to the New Mount Olive Baptist Church to rally the black community in Broward County. Hillary Clinton stopped by just before the 2016 election, after a late announcement by then-FBI Director James Comey put her email servers back into headlines. Andrew Gillum stopped in after his own campaign, during the recount process.

And on Friday, Scott Israel held his news conference there after being suspended from office by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Leaders in Broward’s black community took the choice of venue as a sign of both Israel’s support of and support by black voters.

“I’m not surprised that the press conference is happening there,” said state Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park. “It just shows that support for the sheriff. They’re rallying around what they know, they’re rallying around who supports them.”

Jones added that the show of support for Israel wasn’t a slight against Gregory Tony, DeSantis’ choice to replace Israel, who would be the county’s first African American sheriff. “It’s just that [Tony] is an unknown for many people,” he said.

On the other hand, state Rep. Bobby DuBose, D-Fort Lauderdale, did think holding the news conference at Mount Olive was indicative of the black community’s support for Israel over DeSantis, regardless of their being unaware of Tony.

“From everything that I see, [Israel] has a diverse staff, so him leaning on the community he has a strong relationship with and a long-term relationship with would have more weight than someone who’s had problems with the African American community,” DuBose said.

During the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, DeSantis took severe criticism from Gillum and his supporters over appearances at far-right conferences and the racist language of some of DeSantis’ supporters, capped off by Gillum declaring in the final gubernatorial debate, “I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he is a racist.”

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Source: Florida Sun Sentinel