Uhurus Own the Ground

tampa bay times

Jesse Nevel, candidate for Mayor of St. Petersburg, challenges the Tampa Bay Times.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL, June 22, 2017 — “My name is Jesse Nevel, and I m a candidate for Mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida.” So began Jesse Nevel, who will be on the August 29 primary ballot in the supposedly non-partisan race. He was addressing a crowd of 50 supporters on the sidewalk outside the St. Pete headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times.

But you wouldn’t know it from reading the Times, whose shoddy and dishonest coverage they were gathered to protest on this hot Thursday morning.  The Tampa Bay Times, the Bay News 9 TV station, and the St. Petersburg College will be hosting a St. Petersburg mayoral debate on July 25 at the Palladium Theater.  Nevel has been completely shut out of the proceeding.

“Along with Eritha Akilé Cainion, the candidate for District 6 City Council, I filed to enter this race over three months ago,” Nevel continued.  “Both myself and Akilé have qualified to be on the ballot, after weeks of rigorous work building a people’s movement that collected nearly 2,000 signatures.

“As the only candidate who is representing the interests of the people of the city who want to unite through a progressive agenda with reparations and economic development for the Black community in the center, it is my belief that the decision of the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and SPC to exclude all candidates other than Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker represents an attack on this historic quest to unify our city and to cure the social, economic and racial injustices that plague our city.

“It is a basic, undemocratic assault on the first amendment right of free speech.  It represents an attack on democracy.  It represents an attempt to keep out voice of the people.  It represents a gunshot in the war of ideas designed to silence the people’s movement from taking back our city from millionaires, billionaires, real estate land grabbers, gentrifiers, and big-moneyed political crooks.”

In the June 21 Tampa Bay Times, writer Charlie Frago wrote:

“Kriseman, 54, a Democrat, and Baker, 60, a Republican, will have at least one additional opponent in the nonpartisan mayoral contest.  Jesse Nevel, 27, qualified in the mayoral race.  He is running in coordination with another candidate associated with the African People’s Socialist Party.  ‘The Times, Bay News 9 and St. Petersburg College invited only Kriseman and Baker to the debate.  In the absence of complete local polling, the Times decided to rely on fundraising totals to determine which candidates will participate.  Within a month of Baker’s entry into the race, he and Kriseman smashed all previous fundraising records for a St. Petersburg mayoral race. Each has collected more than $500,000.”

“We own the ground!”

gazi stands

Gazi Kodzo challenges City Hall mural.

Preceding Nevel at the conference was APSP Director of Recruitment Gazi Kodzo, who outlined the “people power” that was fueling the campaign, as opposed to the “money power” propping up Baker and Kriseman.  Nevel and Akilé have gone deep into their communities, hitting the streets every day, knocking on thousands of door, meeting the people, making thousands of phone calls, with their message of “Unity through Reparations.”  Emphasizing the campaign’s theme that “We are winning!” Kodzo concluded, “They can’t win it in the air, because we own the ground!”

Nevel explained, “In a previous article published on June 6, Mr. Frago referred to myself and Eritha Akilé as ‘trailing in the local polls.’  After I confronted Frago at a City Council meeting and pointed out to him that, in fact, there had not been a single poll conducted which asked voters in St. Pete about either my candidacy or Akilé’s, Frago insisted that he’d seen one and that he’d look into it.  Frago looked and published a correction.

“But unless I had exposed this lie, I’m sure yesterday’s paper would have said the decision of only inviting Kriseman and Baker is based on polls.”


Ajamu Baraka, Green Party vice-presidential candidate, 2016.

“This is standard operating procedure,” comments Rose Roby, co-chair of the Pinellas County Green Party.  “Our party has been facing the same anti-democratic attacks from the big corporate media for years.  Over and over, our presidential and vice-presidential candidates have been frozen out of the televised debates.  This past year, it was Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka.  They knew that if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had been forced to deal with them, Jill Stein would have mopped the floor with them.”  Roby had previously announced her party’s support for Nevel and Akilé at their June 6 City Hall press conference.  “We are here to tell the sellout politicians that they cannot sell this City Hall to the highest bidders, they cannot sell it to the gentrifiers, they cannot sell our children’s futures.  We will not have it.”

“You are losing!”

“I think Bay News 9 better contact a lawyer,” said Nevel.  because they are violating FCC equal time rules.  FCC equal time rules clearly state that equal time must be given to all candidates unless for a bonafide news event.  A debate is only considered a bonafide news event if the station covering the debate is not also one of the entities sponsoring the debate.  Bay News 9 is both sponsoring and covering this debate.  So in addition to doing something arrogantly disrespectful to the voting public of this city, you’re also putting yourself at risk of facing litigation.

Tampa Bay Times Editor Neil Brown smugly replied the next day, “I appreciate the frustration — this comes up in every campaign.”

Nevel concluded the conference by looking the assembled reporters straight in the eye and stating, “We usually close our rallies with the cry of ‘We are winning!’  But we’ve added a line:  ‘You are losing!’”  Then the chants roared back:

“We are winning!”
“We are winning!”
“We are winning!”

“You are losing!”
“You are losing!”
“You are losing!”

Gazi Kodzo wrapped up by asking, “Are there any questions?”  Silence.  “We hear you loud and clear.  Thank you.”

— Jeff Roby
June 25, 2017

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