Andrew Gillum may be ahead in the polls as he bids to become Florida’s next governor, but the Tallahassee mayor’s association with a radical far-left group associated with Palestinian terrorism has left his campaign mired in allegations of anti-Semitism and could yet prove costly with the state’s 600,000 Jewish voters.
Republican opponent Ron DeSantis has repeatedly brought up Gillum’s relationship with Dream Defenders, a Florida-based group that claims to build “powerful, deep, local” organization for “freedom and liberation” in the state, pointing to the anti-Israel activism, including the promotion of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Jewish state.
Despite the accusations of anti-Semitism, Gillum has ignored the growing calls to disavow the group even as the largest Jewish weekly publication in the country, the Jewish Press, urged Florida’s Jewish residents to vote for DeSantis, potentially swaying the election to the Republican.
Dream Defenders and Gillum have an extensive history. He recently signed the group’s “Freedom Pledge” promising not to accept money from private prisons. But by signing the pledge, he also endorsed the group’s radical “Freedom Papers” that decry police and prisons as “racist”.
Dream Defenders’ co-founder Phillip Agnew said in an August interview in August that Gillum is considered to be “part of the movement.”
“In 2012 when we started this organization, it is really with a model of what Andrew [Gillum] has led for many, many years in the state. We like to say Andrew Gillum isn’t a friend of the movement, he is a part of the movement,” Agnew said.
Gillum has been supportive of the group since at least 2013, proudly declaring in a debate that he helped Dream Defenders hold a month-long sit-in demonstration at the Florida Capitol in 2013.
“There are two of us here on this stage from Tallahassee, and I was proud to be the only one. When you all slept in for 30 days on the cold, hard marble floors of the state capitol, I was pleased and proud to sneak food into you every night so you could eat,” Gillum said during a Democratic gubernatorial primary forum earlier this year.