The pastor who emceed a vigil held one day after the racist attack at the Dollar General says he mistakenly offered Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis the microphone to speak at the event. Since then, the incident has caused controversy and Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman has endured criticism for her actions in response to the governor’s presence at the vigil as well.
DeSantis made a stop in Jacksonville on August 27 to attend the vigil after three people were fatally shot at a store in New Town. His visit wasn’t received well by everyone at the event as he was met by boos when he was introduced.
Pittman stepped in to speak to the crowd and take control, which has made her a target for criticism and threats.
In an interview on This Week in Jacksonville, Pittman and Pastor John Allen Newman sat down with host Kent Justice to diffuse the situation and explain their intentions at that moment.
“I will tell you that the crowd, they had every reason to be angry, upset because of what had happened the day before,” Pittman said. “But unfortunately, I have been criticized, threatened about the whole situation. What I wanted to do was to diffuse what was happening, to bring some civility for the families who were there and the survivors.”
DeSantis made an impromptu stop in the city after hearing about the shooting. Pittman has said she was unaware that the governor even planned to attend until about an hour before the vigil.
DeSantis wouldn’t have had a chance to speak except Newman, emceeing the event, invited the governor up to the podium. Newman said he was merely supposed to acknowledge the governor’s attendance.
“I mistakenly forgot he was to be acknowledged, would not speak,” Newman said. “So the fluke was I called him to go out and speak.”
Newman made it clear that Pittman did not invite the governor to attend the vigil.
“It was not some kind of grandiose scheme. That was actually a mistake I made by misreading the program,” he said.
Tune in Sunday to watch This Week in Jacksonville to see the full interview or watch on News4JAX+.