Senator steps down after demands for his resignation


By Dorothy Inman-Johnson
Special to the Outlook

By now everyone is aware of Senator Artiles’ sexist, racist, and downright disrespectful comments and behavior toward some of his colleagues in the Florida Senate during an out of control rant at the Governors Club in downtown Tallahassee. He angrily referred to Jacksonville Senator Audrey Gibson as “Girl” and “bitch”, and went on to say Senate President Joe Negron_ who he referred to as a “pussy”_ was only elected because of the “niggers” in the Republican Caucus. He felt because he pronounced the word “nigga” with an “a”, it was not racist. He also called colleagues “f_ _ _ ing a_ _ holes”.

In the past, he has regularly referred to the Black Lives Matter organization as a “terrorist” group, though BLM’s advocacy activities to demand an end to police violence against Black people have been peaceful expressions of free speech and assembly that are rights under the Constitution. Ironic, since Artiles, as indicated by his attorney, wants to now claim that freedom of speech under the Constitution should have protected him against consequences for his recent behavior.

However with the Florida NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, Equality Florida, the Florida Democratic Party, church leaders, the Senate President initiating an investigation, and even many of his Republican colleagues expressing outrage over his behavior, Artiles finally accepted the inevitable and resigned on Friday, April 17. Some people seem to feel the example set by Trump_ who violates all rules of civility_ if a dog whistles that it is okay to say or do anything without repercussions. And it makes you wonder who is Frank Artiles and what turned him into such an angry White man?
Artiles’ background is one of a man who should have known better. He was born in Los Angeles, California in 1973, served honorably in the military where he received several commendations. He received a degree in criminology from Florida State University and a law degree from the University of Miami Law School. He was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in the 2010 mid-term election when there was a national Republican revolution after Obama was elected President in 2008; and Republicans took control of Congress and most state Legislatures, very much like the 2016 election that ushered Trump into the White House and gave us the most conservative Congress and state political leadership in recent history. This should be a lesson to voters who feel mid-term elections are not important and don’t bother to vote in the numbers they do in presidential election years.

After court-ordered redistricting before the 2016 election season resulted in Senate District 119 becoming 75 percent Hispanic, Artiles decided to challenge the Democratic incumbent_ Senator Dwight Bullard_ for the seat and won. He was elected in November 2016 to the Florida Senate with the Republican takeover of the White House, Congress, and most state governments. It is so ironic that just five months after his election, his overblown ego has caused his resignation. Like Trump, all of that power must have gone to his head and caused him to forget he was there to do the public’s business. And regardless of party affiliations, most decent people do not condone the horribly vulgar behavior toward others that Artiles exhibited.

So, his decision to resign was the correct one. And the ground swell of voices demanding his resignation was the moral and correct response, as well. I was proud of Senator Thurston, Senate President Negron, ministers led by Rev. R.B. Holmes, and organizations across Florida and the nation standing up to defend the honor of Senator Gibson, and all women and girls against such offensive attacks, while demanding civility, respect, and dignity from our leaders toward everyone. To do less would condone the kind of bullying we have been subjected to on an almost daily basis from our new President. And though a difficult one, this may turn out to be a good lesson for all of us. Never be afraid to speak truth to power.
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