TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took to Twitter last week to promote the state’s new license plate design. Since then, the responses have ranged from support to criticism.
The new plate features the slogan “Don’t Tread On Me” accompanied by a black coiled rattlesnake over a yellow background. According to the governor’s office, funds from the plate will benefit the Florida Veterans Foundation.
The “Dont Tread On Me” slogan, which is also known as the Gadsden flag, was first flown on a warship in 1775 as a battle cry for American independence from British taxation and rule, according to Dictionary.com. However, its meaning has changed significantly since then.
In the early 2000s, the flag’s meaning became increasingly politicized after it was adopted by conservative and libertarian groups and their platforms for small government and lower taxes. After several supporters of these groups were accused of racism, many of their critics associated the Gadsden flag as an expression of bigotry, the site added.
DeSantis meanwhile has claimed on Twitter that the plate is intended to send a clear message to out-of-state cars, “‘Don’t Tread on Me’ or Florida.”
The “out-of-state cars” likely refers to tourists from other states like New York and California who have flooded into the Sunshine State in recent years.
DeSantis has repeatedly painted Florida as a safe haven for freedom and minimal government intervention — a message originally conveyed in the flag’s design.
But not everyone agreed with the governor’s promotional tweet.
One user said, “Stop calling us the free state of Florida, if that were true I’d be able to do my job as a teacher and create a safe space for all kids,” referring to the governor’s Parental Rights in Education law.
Another user said, “what’s next the Confederate Flag? Plenty of other symbols can be used to benefit Veterans.”
In a statement to WFLA, the governor’s office called the claims “absurd,” adding that they likely came from political opponents looking to smear the governor.
The governor’s office added that the freedom-fighting spirit the flag originally symbolized “has guided America to this day, and Governor DeSantis likewise believes that freedom is a worthy pursuit and viable alternative to heavy-handed government. Many Floridians celebrate Florida as the vanguard of freedom, and countless others have moved here from across the country to live under a state government that enshrines freedom in its decision-making.”
Interested buyers can visit their local tax collector to purchase a presale voucher.