We Say Gay: Jacksonville Sends Defiant Message to Gov. DeSantis Over Pride Celebrations

After Florida directed state-owned bridges to be lit in red, white, and blue for “Freedom Summer” and avoid the usual Pride bridge lighting, seventy people gathered to light up the Main Street Bridge in Jacksonville, Florida, with the pride flag colors.

Celebrating Pride

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The night before Pride Month began in downtown Jacksonville, Florida, seventy people gathered on the Main Street Bridge to light it up with the rainbow colors of the pride flag to celebrate the coming celebration of the LGBTQ+ community.

Lighting the Bridge

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Unfortunately, lighting up the bridge in pride colors wasn’t just a celebration, but also a response to the  Florida Department of Transportation’s decision to light the Acosta Bridge in red, white, and blue for “Freedom Summer.”

State’s Lighting Directive

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The Florida Department of Transportation’s directive to light state-owned bridges in red, white, and blue from Memorial Day to Labor Day was part of the “2024 Florida Freedom Summer” initiative.

2024 Florida Freedom Summer

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The 2024 Florida Freedom of Summer initiative would prevent the usual rainbow lighting for Pride Month on bridges like the Acosta, Sunshine Skyway, and Ringling Bridge. 

Impact on Other Celebrations

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The state’s directive also affected other significant bridge lightings that were meant to spread awareness for  National Gun Violence Awareness Month and Juneteenth. Causes.

Governor DeSantis

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Considering Florida Governor’s contentious relationship with the LGBTQ+ community after enacting the United States’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill in the state, stopping bridges from being lit for pride was most likely not a coincidence.

Specific Lighting Directives

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In fact, The directive actually said, “Florida bridges cannot be lit up in any color besides red, white, and blue,” in order to promote the controversial “Freedom Summer.”

More to the Directive

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Aside from limiting the colors Florida bridges could be lit with, DeSantis also announced the directive would allow for “free admission to state parks during Memorial Day weekend and a sales tax holiday on recreational items throughout July.”

Organizing the Event

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One Jacksonville resident, Matt McAllister, quickly organized the lighting of the bridge within 48 hours after learning about the state’s directive despite being on his honeymoon at the time.

Double the Turnout

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Initially, McAllister expected about 35 participants to attend the event, but when over 70 people showed up to help him with the light bridge he was more than pleased with the larger turnout.

A Good Night

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McAllister said, “We thought we’d get 35 people for the bridge” and, “that would be a good night — that we’d get a couple of pictures and send them to our friends and say we did something. That this took off in such a way is so pleasing.” 

Sending a Message

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By simultaneously lighting the Main Street Bridge in rainbow pride colors while the Acosta Bridge was lit in red, white, and blue, they seemingly sent a powerful message about what freedom means for a country as diverse as America.

Exercising Freedom

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 McAllister went on to say, “If this is about freedom, let’s go exercise our freedom, and that’s what is so special about what we did tonight.”

A Powerful Message

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\McAllister concluded his point by saying, “The lighting of the Main Street Bridge in rainbow colors sent a powerful message of resilience and support.”

The Vibrant Atmosphere

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Ultimately, the event attracted a cheering crowd along the Southbank riverwalk, which created a vibrant atmosphere with multiple light displays surrounded by the Main Street fireworks and colored fountains. 

First Hand Accounts

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Accompanied by her father, Jessica Griffith attended the bridge lighting and appreciated the opportunity to celebrate and show solidarity within the marginalized people of her community.

Celebrating Who We Are

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Griffith told LGBTQNation, “We’re always going to celebrate who we are, welcome others, and make sure they know there are safe, wonderful, affirming, embracing places.”

Sherwin Salla’s Perspective

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Sherwin Salla also participated in the lighting event emphasized the importance of the event as a celebration and a demonstration of their community’s strength.

Community Solidarity

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Salla also told LGBTQ+Nation, “The biggest thing was just showing solidarity and making sure that our freedom is holding,” and, “It was more of a fun celebration to show our community that we still stand strong.”

The post We Say Gay: Jacksonville Sends Defiant Message to DeSantis Over Pride Celebrations first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

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