I was taken aback upon reading the Sept. 16 front-page Press Herald headline that referred to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ abuse of migrants and asylum seekers as a “GOP protest.”

Victoria Bell, center, of Little Rock, Ark., leaves a bus with her children after a trip from Little Rock to Hyannis, Mass., near President Kennedy’s “summer White House,” sponsored by a white segregationist group, May 22, 1962. The Bells were among several hundred African Americans who accepted one-way bus tickets from groups called Citizens Councils that promised jobs and housing in Northern communities. Frank C. Curtin/Associated Press, File

Excuse me? This was a cynical political stunt designed to manufacture outrage, fear and hatred, using human beings as props. These people were deliberately lied to, told that housing and jobs awaited if they boarded the plane to Massachusetts. This is deeply inhumane – and possibly illegal – behavior on multiple levels. And it is worth acknowledging that this shameful ploy bears painful echoes of the 1962 “Reverse Freedom Rides,” whereby white segregationists in the American South deceived Black families, convincing them to board northbound buses through similar promises of housing and employment.

It is beyond outrageous that such nakedly racist and malicious tactics are being recycled for political gain in 2022. So, please call this what it is. It is no “protest.” It is a base act of cruelty – and the cruelty is the point.

Meaghan Daly

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