Before Gov. Ron DeSantis fired him for political reasons, Andrew Warren stood up for Black communities in Hillsborough County as state attorney.
Here’s one example. When Floridians amended the state Constitution to make it easier for returning felons to regain the right to vote, the Republican Legislature passed a law limiting its effect, which disproportionately hurt Black people.
My son was one of them. When he was 17, he was arrested for selling drugs and charged with a felony. He was given probation and has never been in trouble since. He is now 41. Although he never went to jail, he’s still barred from voting in Florida, has trouble getting jobs that provide health insurance and is still dealing with the financial impact of the criminal legal system.
Anyone who has served their time should be able to vote. Warren knew that, so he set up processes to reinstate voting rights for formerly incarcerated persons who still owe government fees. (Since my son lives in Pasco County, that policy didn’t help him.) Warren was also a champion for people charged with nonviolent misdemeanors and oversaw a 69% reduction in the number of cases where children are tried as adults. Warren put a halt to prosecution of minor bike citations as well, after Tampa police had written thousands of tickets for “biking while Black.”
Then, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s catastrophic Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, Warren spoke out in favor of abortion rights, which matter greatly to Black women like me. Black women have fewer resources than white women to travel to states where abortion is still legal after 15 weeks. Maternal mortality rates are disproportionately higher among Black women. But after Warren stood up for abortion rights, DeSantis ousted him.
The right-wing elected officials limiting abortion access are the same leaders who don’t adequately police the police in our communities. In Florida, there have been 678 police killings and 29,806 instances of police using force during arrests between 2013-2021.
Warren was duly elected twice by the people of Hillsborough and when he sued in federal court to get his job back, the judge ruled that the governor violated both the Florida Constitution and the First Amendment in suspending him. But the judge also concluded that he lacked authority to put Warren back in office. Now that Warren has filed an appeal, fair-minded judges should reinstate him and recognize what Black people lost when he was unjustly fired.
Joyce Jackson is a member of Color of Change.
Article originally published at https://www.tampabay.com/opinion/2023/02/18/andrew-warrens-firing-hurt-black-residents-hillsborough-column/