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Florida Agriculture Commissioner Putnam's campaign-bus photographed with slogan against Jax5

Community activists call on Putnam to condemn statement, white supremacists
By staff |
May 18, 2017
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"Convict the #Jax5" written on official Adam Putnam for Florida Governor campaign bus. (Facebook)
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"Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam (right) pictured with known provocateur and white supremacist William Garrett Nix (left), also known as "Gary Snow," at Jacksonville Beach campaign event.

Jacksonville, FL - On Wednesday, May 17, Adam Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Republican candidate for governor of Florida, spoke in Jacksonville Beach at a campaign event. Just a few feet outside, his official campaign tour bus was pictured with "Convict the #Jax5" written in large white lettering on the back, directly below Putnam's name.

At the event, Putnam was pictured meeting with known white supremacist and provocateur William Garrett Nix, also known as “Gary Snow.” Nix, who has referred to Black people as "cave beasts" and "ghetto thugs," provoked a fight at an anti-war protest in Jacksonville on April 7, leading to the beating and arrest of five activists by Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO).

These five activists, dubbed the Jax5, included Connell Crooms, a deaf Black man who was beaten unconscious and hospitalized, along with Willie Wilder, a two-tour of duty Vietnam war veteran and peace activist. Christina Kittle, Toma Beckham and Dave Schneider were also arrested. All face felony charges for organizing and attending a peaceful protest broken up by white nationalists like Nix and police.

Befoe April 7, Nix made videos threatening two of the Jax5 by name, lighting a pan-African flag on fire, and repeatedly shooting the burning flag with a handgun.

Does Putnam believe protesters should be jailed?

The Adam Putnam for Governor campaign has not yet commented on the incident.

"It's unclear whether Commissioner Putnam himself wrote these comments, or whether it was a campaign staffer or supporter," said Wells Todd, organizer with the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition in a press release. "Either way, Putnam should immediately erase this despicable comment, apologize to the greater Jacksonville community, and if he wasn't responsible, denounce known white nationalists like Nix. This man wants to be Governor of Florida, and yet his campaign bus calls for the jailing of peaceful protesters. That's not a sign of leadership - that's a sign of dictatorship."

Sara Mahmoud, a Palestinian rights and Black Lives Matter community activist, said, "Putnam posing with Gary Snow is worrisome all by itself, considering Snow's history in Chicago and the way he's making a name for himself in Jacksonville as a right-wing agitator that weaponizes already dangerous police aggression."

Putnam is far from the first politician to appear chummy with Nix. Just days after the beating and arrest of the Jax5, pictures surfaced of Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams smiling alongside Nix at the Trump campaign headquarters during the 2016 election. Nix also appeared alongside former State Attorney Angela Corey, who became infamous for incarcerating more juveniles than any other part of the state and botching the prosecution of George Zimmerman, the killer of Trayvon Martin, in 2013.

Speaking to this, Mahmoud continued, "Putnam's campaign bus being tagged with the slogan 'Convict the #Jax5' proves that the attack on the Jax5 is a much bigger deal outside of the local community than JSO and the State Attorney's office lets on, as well as Putnam falling in line with the trend of overt right-wing politics resurfacing."

Thus far, Putnam faces two major Democrat challengers for Florida's 2018 gubernatorial election: Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, and former congresswoman Gwen Graham. Well-known progressive trial lawyer John Morgan has also hinted at entering the race. Putnam also faces two challengers for the GOP nomination: central Florida doctor Usha Jain and small business owner Daniel Zutler.

The fight to win justice for the Jax5 escalates

Community groups across the country have called on State Attorney Melissa Nelson to drop all charges on the Jax5. On May 1, activists with Color of Change - a national civil rights organization - delivered over 60,000 petitions signed from across Florida and the U.S. calling for the charges to be dropped. Later that day, over 200 people rallied outside the Duval County Courthouse for International Workers Day to call on Nelson to drop the charges.

The State Attorney has repeatedly delayed the arraignment for the Jax5, which was originally set for May 1. As of publication, the arraignment was moved to May 31 at the Duval County Courthouse.

Taking action

In a press statement, the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition called on Commissioner Putnam to erase the written attack on the Jax5 from his campaign bus and condemn white nationalists like Nix.

"We hope activists around the country, who have already fought so hard for the Jax5, will take this next step and email Putnam's campaign," said JPC organizer Fernando Figueroa. "Ask them if they support the disgusting remarks that appeared on Putnam's bus, and if not, urge him to publicly denounce white nationalists like Nix."

For activists across the state of Florida, the implications are as clear as they are disturbing. "If Putnam doesn't distance himself from Snow - and fast," said Mahmoud, "he will have inadvertently accepted the associations between himself and a known white nationalist."

The Putnam campaign email address is [email protected].