“Desantis woke a sleeping giant when he raided Rebekah Jones’ home last December."
Updated: Dec 9, 2021
On December 7, 2020, nearly a dozen men armed with semi-automatic weapons raided my home. They pointed a gun at my head and told me to open the front door.
I complied. What else can you do with a gun pointed at your head?
They said they had a warrant; but that warrant wouldn’t come until hours later.
I asked if I could see the warrant. “It’s on the way,” one officer said on video recorded from inside of my home that morning.
I knew at that moment something awful was happening to my family. Something un-American. Something dangerous.
I was told I could call my attorney, but they took my phone and wouldn’t let me use it to even get their numbers from it.
I can be heard on the video footage repeatedly asking them what they were allowed to take, what they were allowed to examine, to see the warrant. “It’s on the way” I was told again.
They handed a copy of the warrant to me as they left nearly three hours after pointing guns at me, my two-year-old daughter, my 11-year-old son, and my husband.
They took thousands of dollars of equipment with them - a fruitless effort by the government to silence one of his most prominent critics. A protected whistleblower. A mom with two small children who were made to stand out in the cold without shoes or coats while police ransacked our family home.
I expected to one day face Desantis’ wrath - after all, Jared Moskowitz repeatedly warned of his vindictive nature and ruthlessness. Matt Gaetz told close allies of his that Desantis is a sociopath - “you can’t teach empathy,” he reportedly said of the man who was to serve as his best man (but of course after news broke of Gaetz’ alleged illegal activity, Desantis abandoned Gaetz).
One year after the raid, one thing has been made abundantly clear:
Raiding my home awoke a sleeping giant that will not be deterred, threatened or intimidated in pursuit of accountability.
The outpouring of support from the people of my state enabled me to strike back in one of the most effective ways possible: running for congress to enact laws that protect whistleblowers from government retaliation in a way that wasn’t possible for me and my family.
The tyranny displayed at my home that day was merely the first sign of much worse things to come from this administration.
News broke earlier today of the lengths the state went to coerce even university researchers to destroy COVID-19 data and evidence, to lie to the public about the state’s positions, policies and response to COVID-19, and the fear of retaliation faculty members faced on a daily basis just for doing their jobs honestly and with integrity.
Part of that fear comes from the global outrage over what happened to me and my family last year with no meaningful consequences for those involved to date. Academics feared a “chilling effect” on those tasked with reporting on COVID-19 in the state.
Click here to listen to BBC coverage of the raid.
My contacts panicked after the raid. Moskowitz frantically begged me to delete all traces of our interactions - the texts between us about the state’s failed response, the leads he gave me on what the state was lying to the public about, the data and documentation he broke state laws when he leaked to me. Two other state contacts - one a director and the other a deputy secretary for two different Florida agencies also tracking COVID-19 - ghosted me.
I asked Moskowitz why. Why would he come for me this way? Why would he attack my family? My children?
“From everything I’ve seen,” Moskowitz said, “he’s ruthless.”
When it comes to fighting for truth, transparency and the people in my community, I can be ruthless, too.
The difference between us is that I would never order an attack on the family of a critic. I would never jeopardize the safety of someone else’s children to intimidate a witness. I would never put people in harm’s way in pursuit of power and control.
I fight fair. So far, I’m winning.
The state granted me protected whistleblower status.
Desantis’ repeated abuses of his power continually prove me right.
And next month, the state faces depositions of the officers involved in the raid, where they’ll have to answer as to why they violated civil rights statutes during the raid, how involved Desantis was during their sham “investigation,” and why they didn’t have a warrant in-hand when they pointed a gun to my head and told me to open the door.
Click here to read my March 2020 feature in Cosmopolitan magazine.
No family should ever endure what my family experienced. In America, you have a right to demand proof of a warrant before police can storm your home and steal your stuff. NO law enforcement agency can legally point weapons at two-year-olds as they are seen on video doing.
Most importantly - we have the right to criticize our government without fear of being attacked by the government. For all the talk about free speech and ‘cancel culture’ (which Desantis encourages through repeated threats to social media platforms to suspend his critics), the first amendment exists to protect us from the government hurting us, hurting our children for speaking out.
Our campaign for honesty and integrity has brought us to within six points of GOP-incumbent Matt Gaetz - in a district once thought to be a Republican stronghold (recently redistricted to just three counties - two of which I’m polling ahead).
Yes, in his government-sanctioned, violent attack on my family, Desantis awoke a part of me that I never realized existed- strength I never knew I possessed, conviction I never imagined I’d need, and resolve to see this fight for accountability through, no matter the cost.
More importantly, he awoke another sleeping giant.
Without you, I wouldn’t be here.
My family faces a long road in healing from the trauma we endured that day. We’ve barely started that journey. My children will walk that path their entire lives, forever afraid of the gestapo coming back.
Please help me ensure America does not become a place where our experts, activists, critics, and community leaders cower in fear of being ousted, attacked or murdered for speaking truth to power.
See full video and Val Deming's response here.