- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 20, 2021

A driver’s deadly crash at an LGBTQ pride parade in southern Florida provoked a political firestorm about the tragedy’s motivation but a gay men’s group cast doubt on those branding it a hate crime.

The driver crashed into spectators, killed one man, and injured another at the Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade on Saturday evening. Fort Lauderdale’s mayor quickly linked the collision to terrorism.

“What we saw, it was a terrorist attack on the LGBT community,” Mayor Dean J. Trantalis told NBC 6 in Florida. “This is disgusting, we will not stand for this. This is not going to happen in my city or any city.”

But Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus President Justin Knight said in a statement that the driver and victims were part of his group and he believed the crash was an accident. A Fort Lauderdale police detective told reporters they were investigating all possibilities. 

The mayor walked back his comments Sunday, saying the car collision appeared to be an accident instead of what he initially said.

“As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control,” Mr. Trantalis said in a statement posted to Twitter. “As a result, one man died, two others were injured and the lives of two members of Congress were at risk. My heart breaks for all impacted by this tragedy.”

Doubt about the circumstances surrounding the crash did not prevent “#DeathSantis” from trending in the U.S. on Twitter on Sunday morning, as Twitter users linked the tragedy to the policies of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican. Mr. DeSantis called out protesters obstructing traffic when he signed anti-riot legislation earlier this year, and his political opponents were eager to link Saturday’s tragedy to that action.

“Wilton Manors is what happens when you pass a bill that encourages people to run over protestors with their car,” tweeted Chris Hahn, Democratic strategist. “Ron DeSantis and the rest of the Florida GOP have blood on their hands.”

Mr. Hahn later retracted that tweet and apologized. He said the crash did not appear intentional.

“Yes I took a jab at the right cause they stink all the time,” Mr. Hahn tweeted. “I only stunk for about 5 minutes today.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat, was at the parade when the collision occurred and tweeted that she and her staff were safe. 

“We’re praying for the victims and their loved ones as law enforcement investigates, and I am providing them with whatever assistance I can,” tweeted Ms. Wasserman Schultz. “I am so heartbroken by what took place at this celebration. May the memory of the life lost be a blessing.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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