Brevard County, Florida, residence to NASA’s Kennedy House Middle and the SpaceX challenge, usually makes headlines for sending folks past Earth. Lately, nonetheless, it has drawn consideration for a special cause: the variety of residents it despatched to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.

Federal authorities have accused seven House Coast locals of collaborating within the historic assault on the U.S. Capitol, giving Brevard County the doubtful distinction of getting the sixth-highest variety of folks arrested within the riot investigation within the nation, in keeping with a George Washington College analysis. (The highest 5 counties signify main city areas: Los Angeles, New York Metropolis, Chicago and Seattle.)

Amongst these arrested have been a highschool trainer who coached the soccer group; a pastor at a neighborhood church; his son, the church’s vice chairman; a parishioner on the church; and an Military veteran who belonged to the far-right militia the Oath Keepers.

Why achieve this most of the rioters hail from this coastal area east of Orlando? Within the yr because the Capitol riot, teachers have studied knowledge to divine why locations like Brevard County have been such hotspots — an effort to raised perceive the underlying social situations driving conservative People towards violent insurrectionism.

Heavy traffic in downtown Cocoa, Florida, on Dec. 22. Brevard County is one of the least-populated areas in the country where multiple suspects in the Capitol riot have been based.
Heavy visitors in downtown Cocoa, Florida, on Dec. 22. Brevard County is among the least-populated areas within the nation the place a number of suspects within the Capitol riot have been based mostly.

Octavio Jones for HuffPost

Maybe essentially the most compelling examine on the topic was printed by Robert Pape on the College of Chicago, who discovered that Capitol insurgents have been extra more likely to come from counties the place the white inhabitants was getting smaller. “For each one-point drop in a county’s proportion of non-Hispanic whites from 2015 to 2019, the probability of an rebel hailing from that county elevated by 25 p.c,” The Atlantic reported, citing his analysis.

For Pape, a political science professor and skilled in political violence, the findings have been additional proof that the Capitol assault was fueled by white nationalist fears over the “nice substitute” — the conspiracy principle that someday Black folks, Hispanic folks and different minorities won’t solely overtake whites as the bulk inhabitants in America however will even have extra rights.

Brevard County is certainly residence to a diversifying inhabitants. In 2020, in keeping with an analysis of census knowledge by Florida At this time, 74% of Brevard County recognized as white, an 11% drop from a decade earlier. (The seven Brevard arrestees are overwhelmingly white, all males and have a median age over 40 — a profile in line with the vast majority of the over 700 Capitol riot suspects arrested from across the nation. All of them both declined or didn’t reply to interview requests for this story.)

A expletive-bearing flag denigrating President Joe Biden and a Confederate flag fly over a home in Brevard County, Florida, on Dec. 16.
A expletive-bearing flag denigrating President Joe Biden and a Accomplice flag fly over a house in Brevard County, Florida, on Dec. 16.

Octavio Jones for HuffPost

However some folks in Brevard County have one other, associated principle for why so lots of their neighbors have been arrested within the storming of the Capitol: They have been impressed partially by the rhetoric and actions of their native elected lawmakers and officers.

Brevard is residence to a bunch of bellicose Republicans — all of whom have embraced former President Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen — who lately have focused their political opponents with a very vile and vindictive mixture of harassment and lying. The consequence has been incidents of alleged violence, vandalism, intimidation and even a false report of kid abuse.

On this coterie are a sheriff with intensive ties to the extremist constitutional sheriffs motion; a state consultant who could have created an internet site to falsely accuse two of his enemies of getting an affair; a county commissioner who has advocated {that a} native Democratic official get an abortion in order that her “litter” wouldn’t be a “scourge on humanity”; a mayor who bragged about stockpiling weapons to make use of in opposition to Democrats; and a U.S. congressman who lately mentioned “Let’s go, Brandon” — a euphemism for “Fuck Joe Biden” — on the Home ground.

The aggressive model of politics right here predated the assault on the Capitol, native residents advised HuffPost, and has solely escalated within the yr since. Brevard County needs to be a warning to the remainder of the nation that “Make America Nice Once more” political violence didn’t attain its high-water mark on Jan. 6, the residents mentioned. On the contrary, tensions are certain to accentuate heading into the midterm elections this yr and the presidential election in 2024.

Brevard might show a harbinger of the political turmoil to return.

“I Most likely Cried Each Day”

The attack on Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins included a coarse message burned onto her lawn.
The assault on Brevard County Faculty Board member Jennifer Jenkins included a rough message burned onto her garden.

Octavio Jones for HuffPost

That was the message, burned onto the entrance garden with weed killer, that greeted 32-year-old Jennifer Jenkins outdoors her residence on the morning of Sept. 1.

The evening earlier than had been probably the most surreal of her life. About 20 right-wing, anti-mask protesters had gathered outdoors her younger household’s home in Satellite tv for pc Seaside, haranguing her and her daughter. “Watch out, your mommy hurts little youngsters!” Jenkins remembers one of many protesters screaming. “You’re going to jail!” mentioned one other. One protester even went out of the best way to cough in Jenkins’ face. “Give her COVID!” somebody screamed.

Jenkins had by no means anticipated this. When she ran for varsity board in early 2020, it was largely so she — an elementary college speech pathologist on the time — might work to boost trainer salaries. To the shock of many, she ended up defeating the Republican incumbent by 10 proportion factors, regardless of being a Democrat in a pink county.

She was thrilled, however the coronavirus pandemic arrived a short while later, a once-in-a-century disaster that, mixed with an already tumultuous presidential election season, had the impact of conscripting Jenkins into the tradition wars.

Proper-wing protesters first turned up outdoors her home in April, a bunch of about 15 folks indignant over college codes that allowed trans college students to make use of bogs that aligned with their gender. (Others on the college board had supported the codes, which weren’t new, however the protesters focused Jenkins, the lone Democrat.) “Pedophiles!” they screamed at Jenkins and her husband, a neighborhood trainer. “We’re coming for you,” one other protester yelled. “We’re coming at you want a freight prepare! We’re going to make you beg for mercy. In case you thought Jan. 6 was dangerous, wait till you see what we have now for you!”

Then an anti-mask MAGA group referred to as Mothers for Liberty, shaped by the Republican whom Jenkins defeated for the college board seat, turned a fixture at college board conferences. Jenkins needed to have a police escort to and from her automotive to guard her from the mob of Trump supporters carrying flags and yelling at her by means of megaphones within the car parking zone. (Mothers for Liberty has since gone national, focusing on college boards throughout the nation.)

The protesters who made it contained in the conferences disrupted speeches by LGBTQ college students with chants of “Disgrace!” Exterior, members have been “banging on the doorways and home windows” of the constructing, Jenkins recalled, in what she known as a “mini-insurrection.”

“It was essentially the most disturbing, disgusting scene on the planet outdoors of our faculty board,” she mentioned.

By late July, after Jenkins got here out in help of a masks mandate in colleges, Republican state Rep. Randy High quality posted her private cellphone quantity on Fb, encouraging his tens of 1000’s of followers to name her. “COVID is neither extremely transmissible at school AND has nominal impact on youngsters,” High quality wrote within the since-deleted publish. “If you wish to rise up to your rights, name Jenkins RIGHT NOW and let her know precisely how you’re feeling.”

Jenkins was inundated with menacing calls and texts. Within the following months, as reported by The Daily Beast, High quality escalated his assaults on Jenkins. Her help of masks was “actually government-sanctioned youngster abuse,” High quality wrote in a single Fb publish. There was “a special place in hell” for Jenkins,” he mentioned in one other.

Then, on the night of Sept. 1, about 20 protesters turned up outdoors Jenkins’ residence once more. Jenkins initially did her finest to not interact with them. However round 8 p.m., she tried to learn a bedtime story to her daughter as protesters walked by the bed room window. “Mommy, when are the imply folks going to depart?” she mentioned her daughter requested.

“And I simply bought pissed,” Jenkins recalled. “Like I simply lastly misplaced my shit, and I went outdoors.”

She yelled on the protesters. That’s when Janice Crisp — a neighborhood MAGA activist who months earlier had filmed herself giving the white nationalist “OK” signal as she drove to D.C. for the Jan. 6 rally — coughed in Jenkins’ face.

“Randy High quality says hiya!” Crisp screamed at one level. One other protester swung a Gadsden “Don’t tread on me” flag at Jenkins, almost hitting her within the head. Finally all of them left.

Jenkins found the “F U” burned into her garden the subsequent morning.

Later that day, an investigator from the Florida Division of Youngsters and Households arrived at her residence. An nameless caller had lodged a faux accusation of kid abuse in opposition to her. The investigator questioned Jenkins about how she disciplined her daughter, even finally inspecting the kid for burn marks that weren’t there.

Police are actually investigating who referred to as within the faux report, which Jenkins is bound is related to the protests.

“There was a degree the place I in all probability cried day-after-day. … It’s actually exhausting. As a result of it doesn’t solely have an effect on me, it impacts my household,” Jenkins mentioned. “It’s been horrible, and I really feel like my job has been kidnapped.”

High quality didn’t reply to a request for remark about his position in Jenkins’ harassment.

Jenkins feels an obligation to maintain going. She has been moved by the gratitude she obtained from LGBTQ college students and their households, and from dad and mom grappling with educate their college students safely throughout a historic pandemic.

“I’ve this, this horrible burden of not letting folks down and balancing not letting the people who find themselves torturing me know that they’re torturing me,” Jenkins mentioned.

In November, Jenkins filed for an emergency restraining order in opposition to High quality to stop him from focusing on her on-line. They’re due in court docket subsequent week.

“By no means Problem My Authority”

Blogger and journalist Robert Burns in his subdivision in Brevard County on Dec. 22. Burns says a state lawmaker who represents the county was behind an assault on him in November.
Blogger and journalist Robert Burns in his subdivision in Brevard County on Dec. 22. Burns says a state lawmaker who represents the county was behind an assault on him in November.

Octavio Jones for HuffPost

In early November, Robert Burns, a 41-year-old Military veteran who served as a medic in Iraq, was on the cellphone whereas strolling by means of Turkey Creek Sanctuary in Brevard County when two massive white males approached him.

“Are you Robert Burns?” one man requested.

“Sure,” Burns replied.

“Are you Randy High quality’s Robert Burns?” the person continued.

“Yeah, sadly,” Burns replied.

“Oh, OK, so that you prefer to rape and abuse ladies and kids?”

Burns and the person began to battle, falling to the bottom. As they wrestled, Burns says the second man hit him over the top with a heavy object, knocking him out.

Burns, who says he has post-traumatic stress dysfunction and mind accidents from his time in Iraq, wakened minutes later. The boys have been gone. Pictures he shared with HuffPost present him within the hospital that night with bruised ribs (from the place he thinks the boys kicked him whereas he was unconscious) and different accidents to his neck, head and palms.

A Palm Bay Police Division spokesman advised HuffPost an investigation into the incident was ongoing.

Years in the past, after leaving the Military, Burns moved again to Brevard County, the place he grew up. He bought into politics, doing social media consulting for native candidates. He launched a politics weblog referred to as the House Coast Rocket, which was typically crucial of High quality. Burns finally ended up serving because the marketing campaign supervisor for High quality’s opponent within the 2020 Republican major.

High quality started to obsessively goal Burns on-line, repeatedly calling him a “rapist,” a cost stemming from accusations that Burns sexually assaulted a lady whereas within the Military.

(Burns vehemently denies this accusation, saying he and his accuser had consensual intercourse whereas inebriated. The rape fees in opposition to him have been dismissed by the Military. The accuser, nonetheless, maintains that it was rape. In July, High quality paid for the lady to fly to Florida to carry a press conference to make her case in opposition to Burns.)

High quality has additionally baselessly accused Burns a number of instances of getting an affair with Jenkins, the college board member. His solely proof for this declare was a photograph — presumably taken by certainly one of Burns’ neighbors — of Jenkins leaving Burns’ home in the course of the day.

On Nov. 3, High quality posted the picture on Fb, linking to an nameless weblog on an internet site solely dedicated to lashing out at Burns. “Whereas taxpayers pay Jennifer ‘Jezebel’ Jenkins for her college board duties, lots of these hours are spent within the residence of political guide…Robert Burns,” the weblog started. (A Day by day Beast investigation discovered that High quality probably had a job within the launch of this Burns-focused web site. He didn’t reply to HuffPost’s query about his alleged involvement.)

The publish was printed simply minutes earlier than Burns was approached by the 2 males within the park.

Burns and Jenkins are pals, they usually did meet at Burns’ home — not for a secret tryst however to work on compiling proof that High quality’s harassment of them violates a state cyberstalking regulation that High quality himself helped move. They’ve since handed over that proof to a neighborhood prosecutor. The Florida Division of Regulation Enforcement is investigating High quality over these complaints.

Burns mentioned he thinks so many Capitol rioters got here from Brevard County due to the instance set not simply by High quality however by different native officers who goal their political enemies with relative impunity. (High quality mentioned in an electronic mail to HuffPost that he strongly condemned the Capitol rioters after Jan. 6, pointing to Fb posts he made on the time calling them “dirtbags” who deserved “the utmost attainable punishment, as much as and together with capital.”)

Take Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, for instance, Burns mentioned.

Burns claims that one evening — after a county fee assembly the place he questioned Ivey over the sheriff’s price range — a sheriff’s deputy pulled him over after midnight, accusing him of getting run a cease signal within the quiet subdivision the place he lives. Burns mentioned the deputy stored him there for 45 minutes.

On the subsequent county fee assembly, Burns heard by means of a buddy that Ivey bragged in regards to the visitors cease. “I had my boy deal with [Burns],” Ivey allegedly mentioned. “He’s a no one. He thinks he can do that. I’m gonna be sure that he results in entrance of a decide that’s going to have him selecting up canine shit on my chain gang.”

HuffPost couldn’t independently confirm these accusations, which Ivey referred to as “outrageous” in an electronic mail to HuffPost. (Nevertheless, Ivey has used chain gangs in Brevard, the draconian act of tethering inmates, all carrying striped uniforms, collectively by the ankles with chains and forcing them to do highway work.)

“Thanks for reaching out to me and right here is a superb image of me and my canine ‘Junny’ that you may be at liberty to make use of in your story!!” Ivey wrote in his electronic mail to HuffPost. “Please remember to ship me a hyperlink to the article as I at all times get pleasure from a very good chuckle.”

Ivey has publicly aligned himself with the constitutional sheriff’s movement, an inherently insurrectionary community of sheriffs who imagine they’re the final word regulation enforcement authority of their counties, outranking officers from the federal or state authorities.

This far-right extremist motion is carefully tied to the broader, anti-democratic militia or “patriot” motion, which is animated by a large number of conspiracy theories about gun confiscation, Muslims and immigrants. (Ivey, who as soon as spoke at a Trump rally in Tampa, was amongst these sheriffs in 2019 who pledged to detain immigrants on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)

Ivey treats the press as his enemy. His division allegedly refused to speak to a Black reporter from Florida At this time after deeming him “large, boisterous and pushy.” Ivey extra lately told one other Florida At this time reporter to “by no means problem my authority.”

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey and his dog.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey and his canine.

Courtesy of Sheriff Wayne Ivey

A Legacy Of Hate

Elsewhere in Brevard County, Henry Parrish, the previous Republican mayor of Cocoa Seaside, posted a message basically encouraging his celebration to organize for civil conflict in opposition to Democrats.

In a Fb remark directed at Bryan Lober, a Republican county commissioner, Parrish wrote: “For my part it’s truthful to notice at this level we’re not those making the case for the Dems to be eradicated from the planet. They themselves are…The founding fathers knew that this was the probably situation to threaten our republic. I say let the socialists/communists hold having their conferences [while] I’ll be shopping for extra AR-15s. Now that’s actuality.”

Parrish didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Lober, the Republican county commissioner, has himself made a sequence of actually disturbing remarks about his political opponents.

In 2019, in a remark thread on Lober’s Fb web page about Democrats protesting a Trump rally in Orlando, a commenter wrote: “Phrase of knowledge to the protesters – Watch out for the Dodge Chargers!” a seemingly fumbled reference to the Dodge Challenger {that a} neo-Nazi drove into a group of anti-racist protesters, killing Heather Heyer, on the 2017 white supremacist Unite the Proper rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

One other commenter responded: “In case you hit one again up and go once more. (simply kidding).”

To that remark, Lober responded, “I wouldn’t suggest utilizing a snow plow. It’d look intentional.” He then added an emoji of a goofy face with a stuck-out tongue.

Responding to backlash over the remark, Lober claimed that he thought “Dodge Chargers” was a reference to the mannequin of automotive utilized by police in Florida. His “snowplow” remark, he mentioned, was a reference to an incident in Massachusetts during which anti-Trump protesters have been splashed with slush. (Florida is certainly one of a handful of states within the nation the place conservatives have handed legal guidelines making it simpler for drivers to run over protesters with their cars with impunity. High quality, an in depth ally of Lober’s, voted for the regulation.)

In one other Fb publish that yr, Lober instructed that certainly one of his feminine opponents — then-Brevard County Democratic Chair Stacey Patel — ought to get an abortion.

“I’m not usually an enormous abortion proponent however in Patel’s case, I’d look the opposite approach as I can solely think about what a scourge of humanity (and on our economic system) her offspring would show to be on condition that her litter would probably be raised with an entitlement mentality, zero work ethic and taught the hypocritically racist and sexist place that the white man is evil,” Lober wrote.

Patel referred to as the feedback “merciless” and mentioned it was “solely inappropriate to dehumanize one’s political adversary.” To check with “my potential youngsters as a ‘litter’ and a ‘scourge on humanity’ is really past the pale.”

In an electronic mail to HuffPost, Lober referred to as the publish “a poor try at humor.”

“In hindsight, I remorse having made that remark however I imagine the response to it has been massively overblown,” Lober wrote. “To be speaking about this years later is a bit a lot.”

When Stacey Patel was Brevard County Democratic chair, a Republican county commissioner suggested she get an abortion and not create "a litter."
When Stacey Patel was Brevard County Democratic chair, a Republican county commissioner instructed she get an abortion and never create “a litter.”

Patel doesn’t suppose it’s a “bit a lot.” She and her husband, Sanjay, who can be concerned in native Democratic politics, have been frequent targets of GOP officers in Brevard. High quality, for instance, lately referred to the couple as “human feces.”

This type of habits by white reactionaries is a part of Brevard County’s DNA, Patel mentioned. In any case, she famous, one of many first main assassinations of the civil rights period happened right here. In 1950, Harry T. Moore, who headed up the state chapter of the NAACP, and his spouse, Harriette, have been murdered when a bomb exploded at their residence within the city of Mims. Regulation enforcement investigations later implicated space Klansmen within the murders, although none have been ever convicted.

In 2008, the Patels erected an indication celebrating Barack Obama’s election victory of their entrance yard. “A truck got here by with baseball bats and destroyed it, egged our home they usually yelled ‘sand-n****r’ and ‘terrorist’ at my husband,” Patel recalled.

Such actions, and the rhetoric of the native GOP officers, Patel mentioned, are supposed to intimidate folks into not collaborating in democracy.

“Individuals don’t wish to be handled like we have now been handled,” she mentioned. “So their willingness to run for workplace or say what must be mentioned is certainly diminished.”

Patel’s dad was within the navy, so her household moved round so much. She went to highschool in Brevard County, moved away for some time after which moved again along with her husband about 15 years in the past. Throughout the pandemic, she arrange a widely used mutual aid program to assist feed and dress their neighbors. Brevard is her residence, but now she and her husband talk about every day whether or not it’s time to “transfer to safer floor.”

“In case you’re a navy brat, nowhere is ever residence,” Patel mentioned, briefly breaking down in tears. “And so that you suppose if you give every little thing you need to a spot — and actually, like, I don’t work for cash, I simply attempt to serve my group in one of the best ways that I understand how — and if you try this, you suppose you’ve earned your potential to name a spot residence, however I’m unsure that we’ll be capable to try this.”

“And that makes me very unhappy, as a result of we have now a gorgeous group right here. However, I’m sorry, I’m simply… I’m unsure that we’ll be capable to keep.”


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