DeSantis tweeted Tuesday that "Attorney General Garland is weaponizing the DOJ by using the FBI to pursue concerned parents and silence them through intimidation. Florida will defend the free speech rights of its citizens and will not allow federal agents to squelch dissent."
According to Townhall, DeSantis' office later issued a statement announcing that Florida law already forbids harassment and that state law enforcement is "perfectly capable of responding to crimes in Florida, and we have never heard the FBI suggest otherwise."
"However, disagreement is not harassment. Protest is not terrorism, unless it involves rioting, looting, and assault, like some of the left-wing protests of summer 2020. Again, all of those actions are crimes in Florida and will be prosecuted, regardless of political context," the statement continued.
In a memorandum Monday, Garland announced he was directing the FBI to work with prosecutors and local officials to discuss “strategies for addressing threats” against school workers with the aim of coming up with a system for threat reporting, assessment, and response.
The statement comes less than a week after the National School Board Association (NSBA), which represents local school board officials around the U.S., addressed a letter to President Joe Biden asking for FBI intervention to help fight “angry mobs” that have been appearing at school board meetings to protest Covid restrictions.
The letter mentioned over 20 instances of intimidation against officials, among them, some in Florida.
As governor of the country's third-largest state, DeSantis has been one of the most powerful people blocking public Covid safety measures.
DeSantis’ administration has banned mask mandates in schools, and yanked state funding for school districts that violate those bans, among other anti-restriction measures.
Scenes of outraged parents threatening officials over Covid limitations, particularly mask mandates, played out across the nation in late summer as school districts worked to come up with cautionary policies for the upcoming school year. In Florida, DeSantis has made clear that his administration is against essentially all public Covid limitations, particularly when it comes to schools. In August, the Florida State Board of Education enacted a new policy that enables students to transfer from public to private schools if they encounter what the state considers to be “Covid-19 harassment,” with taxpayers footing the bill to cover private school tuition.
The Biden Administration has started reimbursing school districts in Florida that had funding pulled by the state government over mask mandates. The state has been denying funding equal to local school board members’ salaries, though the state education commissioner on Monday recommended the state increase its penalties so the federal reimbursement can’t cancel them out.