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New license plate helps veterans, sparks controversy

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A new Florida license plate intended to help a Florida veterans’ group is sparking controversy over the “Don’t Tread On Me” message it displays. Gov. Ron DeSantis promoted the about to become available license plate which features the Gadsden flag that contains the words “Don’t Tread On Me” in a July 30 posting on Twitter.

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According to Dictionary.com, the flag, which also depicts a coiled rattlesnake against a yellow background, was first flown on a warship during the American Revolution. Its slogan later became affiliated with American independence from Great Britain. The design is credited to soldier and politician Christopher Gadsden.

More recently, the flag has been associated with some libertarian and conservative groups. The proposed license plate is intended to benefit the Florida Veterans Foundation which must pre-sell 3,000 vouchers at $33 each. Once that goal is reached, the plate may be produced and $25 from the sale of each plate will directly benefit the veterans’ group. Aaron Keller, director of communications for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) said that the Gadsden Flag specialty license plate was established in 2020 by HB 1135 and signed into law by DeSantis. The specialty plate is just one of those that have been offered in Florida in recent years.

Florida offers many different specialty license plates for various organizations in support of the causes they represent,” Keller said. “Millions of dollars have been raised for charitable organizations since the inception of Florida specialty license plates.
DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said that controversy connected to the license plate stems from the flag’s association with conservative groups.

“The ‘controversy’ is based on claims that are absurd,” Pushaw said. “The idea originates from citizens and must have a threshold of support, then get approved through the legislature – I am sure these veterans would not appreciate such accusations about their motives, either.”
A total of 985 license plates have been pre-sold with 2,015 still needed to meet the requirement to produce it.
To pre-order the plate visit No Florida Veteran Left Behind – Help Florida Veterans (helpflvets.org).

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