Gov. Ron DeSantis' Union League honor sparks outrage, protests in Philadelphia

DeSantis received the Union League's gold medal, an honor first bestowed on President Abraham Lincoln back in 1863

6abc Digital Staff Image
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Philly crowd protests Union League's decision to honor Gov. DeSantis
EMBED <>More Videos

The Union League of Philadelphia will bestow its highest honor on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Union League of Philadelphia bestowed its highest honor on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Tuesday evening.

DeSantis received the Union League's gold medal, an honor first bestowed on President Abraham Lincoln back in 1863.

The decision sparked backlash within the historic club and in the community.

A faction within the League says the potential presidential candidate was not worthy for a variety of reasons, including elevating election deniers and banning books he deems offensive from libraries.

Some members threatened to resign unless the award was rescinded.

State Senator Vincent Hughes was among the protesters who gathered outside of the Union League Tuesday.

"Why are you promoting this individual who, in their philosophy, sees so many people, Black and brown folks, LGBTQ+ folks, as secondhand citizens?" said Hughes.

"This is a disgrace. It is wrong. It is a smack in the face of the people of this city," said Rev. Alyn E. Waller of the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in a Facebook video before the event. "How are you going to honor someone in a city that is 44% African American, and he has determined that an AP course on African American history has no educational value? That is not acceptable."

Florida rejected a proposed Advanced Placement course focused on African American Studies because it included a study of topics like the Movement for Black Lives, Black feminism and reparations, according to a list of concerns provided to CNN by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' office.

The one-page document prepared by the Florida Department of Education also questions the inclusion of certain Black authors and historians whose writings touch on critical race theory and Black communism. For example, the state objects to the inclusion of writing by Robin D.G. Kelley, a professor of American history at UCLA, who "warns that simply establishing safe spaces and renaming campus buildings does nothing to overthrow capitalism," according to the document.

The state also said the course framework for the study of reparations -- the argument to compensate Black Americans for slavery and other historical atrocities and oppressive acts -- includes "no critical perspective or balancing opinion in this lesson."

DeSantis has been quoted saying his position is based on his concern that those courses are more about pushing a liberal political agenda than teaching history.

Aaron Bashir, a Republican ward leader in Philadelphia, says it's time for all Americans to accept disagreements without labeling people who share opposing views.

"Whenever you're trying to come up with something, they always attack you as a racist person, as a person who does not support minority rights. It's insane," said Bashir.

Meanwhile, protesters are calling on members to cancel their memberships and for other organizations to boycott the Union League and its facilities.

DeSantis was overwhelmingly reelected Florida governor last November.