Angie Nixon, a Democratic state representative from Jacksonville, speaks with reporters after the House overwhelmingly rejected her resolution advocating for de-escalation and a cease-fire in Israel and Gaza. (Credit: Jackie Llanos)
Democratic State Rep. Angie Nixon pleaded with her peers on the state House floor Tuesday afternoon to humanize innocent Gazans with a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. Even two from her own party denounced her attempt.
Nixon, of Duval County, was the lone lawmaker to mention Palestinian deaths, and she was called an anti-Semite and evil during a teary-eyed debate.
The tensions rose for nearly an hour during the second day of the Florida Legislature’s special session as Nixon stood alone in defending the resolution she filed on Monday, which stated: “Millions of lives are at imminent risk if a cease-fire is not achieved and humanitarian aid is not delivered without delay.”
Her resolution, HR 31 C, was among three in the House dealing with the war that broke out after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel from Hamas. The other two, which show support for Israel, come from Democratic Rep. Katherine Waldron and Republican Rep. Randy Fine.
‘Turn your backs on me’
Nixon cried while introducing the resolution and broke down further during her closing remarks.
Other House members asked her if her resolution sympathized with terrorists and questioned why her original resolution didn’t mention the people Hamas took as hostages and why she had referred to Palestine as being occupied. She filed amendments to her resolution Tuesday morning to call for the release of the hostages. Those amendments did not prevail.
“Many of my colleagues have stated that folks are fearful of another massacre occurring to the Jewish people. Well, guess what? A massacre is occurring now. Entire bloodlines of Palestinians have been wiped away. They are gone,” Nixon said while Democrats and Republicans faced away from her.
“To the people at home, I will fight on your behalf no matter what. Even if they threaten to take away funding. Even if they threaten to silence me, I won’t remain silent. Even if they punish me like they continue to do because I’m speaking out for marginalized communities, all marginalized communities.
“And you can turn your backs on me, but I am on the right side of history because I don’t want the babies to die. This resolution was filed on behalf of my constituents. My community wanted me to humanize the victims that are suffering abroad.”
Nixon continued in her closing remarks: “My colleagues have said they will not give up the fight. We are at 10,000 dead Palestinians. How many will be enough?”
Immediately following that question, a male voice within the House shouted: “All of them.” From the camera pit below the House press gallery, it was not possible to tell who it was.
“Wow, one of my colleagues just said ‘all of them.’ Wow, one of my colleagues said ‘all of them,'” Nixon said while crying. “One of my colleagues also stated that this is going to dry up their fundraising if we vote on this resolution. That’s what we’ve become in this state.”
In the end, 104 representatives voted against the resolution. The vote came after Fine and Republican Rep. Jeff Holcomb and Democratic Rep. Michael Gottlieb said calling for a cease-fire is anti-Semitic. Another Democratic representative, Hillary Cassel also spoke against Nixon. Overall, 12 people didn’t vote.
Claims of anti-Semitism
“If you vote for this, you are putting my child and every Jewish child in this state at risk because what you were doing is you are saying what these monsters that are parading through our college campuses on the streets are doing is justified,” Fine said. “If you vote for this, you’re an anti-Semite.”
Nixon’s resolution also opposed the “criminalization of Floridians’ rights to speak out against and protest human rights violations.”
Only Orange County Rep. Anna Eskamani voted with Nixon.
“Outside of these four walls, the people stand firmly with me,” Nixon responded when asked about not having the support from the Democratic Caucus on this issue.
Additionally, Nixon told reporters after the vote that she was being demonized: “They labeled me things that I’m not when clearly the bill stated it was against all forms of anti-Semitism, it was against all types of hate. But, you know, it’s a political stunt, and they wanted to score cheap political points.”
Democrats were so against Nixon’s resolution that Democratic House Leader Fentrice Driskell asked Nixon to withdraw it before the session today, Driskell told reporters after the House adjourned. She also said the caucus stands with the people of Israel.
“I had my thoughts on how things should go today,” Driskell said. “She is her own member. She made the decision to bring that resolution and ultimately that was her decision.
However, Driskell disagreed with the characterization of Nixon or Eskamani as anti-Semites.
“I think you’ve heard nuance, even in the speech that was given by Nixon,” she said. “But, I think the challenge is that most of the caucus just really wasn’t with her today, and that was reflected in the vote.”
House Speaker Paul Renner told reporters after the House adjourned that Nixon had several opportunities to withdraw the resolution and that Florida would continue denouncing hatred toward Jews and Israel.
“I’m saying today we will not stand for this in the state of Florida. So, if we need to go out and have a task force to go prosecute people, that’s what we’re going to do. We will not allow our Jewish citizens to be victimized period,” Renner said.
Support for Israel
The two resolutions in support of Israel passed. HR 9C from Waldron received unanimous support. On the other hand, Driskell, Eskamani and Nixon voted against HR 11 C from Fine, which was titled “Support for Israel and Condemning Hamas and Anti-Semitism.”
Unlike Waldron’s resolution, Fine’s resolution condemned anti-Semitic rhetoric on college campuses and demanded the end of U.S. financial support for Palestinian and Iranian organizations. Eskamani asked Fine whether that included organizations providing humanitarian aid. He said yes.
“It would absolutely it would include the humanitarian organization that just a few days ago while bringing humanitarian supplies attempted to sneak across the border into Gaza equipment that had one purpose and one purpose only, which was to keep terrorists alive in the tunnels,” Fine said, signaling air quotes around the word “humanitarian.”
While discussing the death toll of Palestinians in the conflict, Fine said that Israel was risking its soldiers to reduce civilian casualties.
“If Israel wanted to genocide of Gaza, they could have done. It wouldn’t take it along. Just drop a bunch of bombs, turn into a giant parking lot. They have that ability. Instead of doing that —if you think about a place with 2 million people, only 10,000 have died — Israel is risking the lives of its soldiers to try to minimize the deaths of Gazans. No other military in the history of the world has been asked to do that: Sacrifice your own people to save the other side.”
Neither Waldron’s nor Fine’s resolutions mentioned the Palestinian civilians killed during the conflict.
Twelve lawmakers missed the vote on Nixon’s resolution:
- Republican Caroline Amesty of Orange and Osceola
- Democrat Bruce Hadley Antone of Orange
- Democrat Christopher Benjamin of Miami-Dade
- Democrat Kevin Chambliss of Miami-Dade
- Democrat Kimberly Daniels of Duval
- Republican Wyman Duggan of Duval
- Democrat Gallop Franklin of Leon
- Democrat Dianne Hart of Hillsborough
- Democrat Yvonne Hayes Hinson of Alachua and Marion
- Democrat Dotie Joseph of Miami-Dade
- Democrat Felicia Simone Robinson of Broward and Miami-Dade
- Democrat Patricia Williams of Broward
Following the original floor vote, Amesty and Chambliss voted against Nixon’s resolution. Additionally, after the House adjourned, Renner, during a press conference, called out the unexcused absences of five lawmakers (Antone, Benjamin, Hart, Joseph and Williams.)
“I think that the members have to take a stand. If they can’t take a stand on an issue like this, what can you take a stand on?” he said. “Unfortunately, there were some members who chose not to be here for the vote that are here, and they can answer to their constituents as to why they didn’t take a position on that last resolution sponsored by Representative Nixon.”
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