Florida Gov. DeSantis: 5 things to know about license plate that warns "out-of-state cars"

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is promoting a new specialty license plate that features the words “Don’t Tread on Me” with a coiled rattlesnake that was first pictured in the Gadsden flag, an historical American flag waved as a protest against government tyranny.

DeSantis said the plate will serve as a warning to “out-of-state cars” driven by visitors to Florida.

“The free state of Florida has a new license plate for pre-order that benefits the Florida Veterans Foundation and sends a clear message to out-of-state cars, ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ or Florida,” DeSantis tweeted.

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Here are five things to know about the “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag used as messaging.

1. "Don't Tread on Me' license plates are offered in 11 states

Florida "Don't Tread on Me" proposed specialty license plate
Florida "Don't Tread on Me" proposed specialty license plate

The “Don’t Tread on Me” license plate is already offered on specialty license plates in 11 states. They are Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arizona, Montana, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia.

2. On the new Florida license plate, who is the flag named after?

The flag is named after a colonel in the Continental Navy during the America’s Revolutionary War. Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina came up with the flag to be used by the Marines fighting the British Navy.

3. More on the Gadsden flag

Over time, the flag has been embraced by a variety of anti-government political groups, from Libertarians to Tea Party groups to gun-rights advocates and far-right groups.

Jerad and Amanda Miller, a married Las Vegas couple with strong anti-government views, went on a shooting spree in that city in 2014, killing two city police officers. They left a Gadsden flag and a swastika on one of the officers’ bodies with a note that said. “This is the beginning of the revolution.”

4. Flag on new plate has been flown by Trump supporters

A President Trump supporter carries a Don't Tread On Me flag during a rally at the Capitol building in Lansing, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
A President Trump supporter carries a Don't Tread On Me flag during a rally at the Capitol building in Lansing, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag was also a common flag flown by the Trump-supporting insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan.ry 6 of last year.

Rosanne Boyland, a 34-year-old Trump supporter from Georgia who was trampled during the storming of the Capitol and died, was carrying a “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag that day.

5. The “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag has also been challenged due to racial issues

This Feb. 26, 2015 photo shows the location where Gadsden's Wharf once stood on the waterfront in Charleston, S.C. Tens of thousands of African slaves first set foot in the United States on this site.
This Feb. 26, 2015 photo shows the location where Gadsden's Wharf once stood on the waterfront in Charleston, S.C. Tens of thousands of African slaves first set foot in the United States on this site.

Gadsden was a slave owner who built Gadsden’s Wharf in Charleston, South Carolina, where an estimated 100,000 Black people were sold into slavery.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2014 found that displaying that Gadsden flag on clothing to black employees could constitute “race-based harassment” in the workplace.

A Black firefighters union has called the flag the equivalent of the Confederate battle flag.

When Kansas approved the use of the Gadsden flag and its message on state license plates last year, several lawmakers objected due to its racial connections.

“We don’t have other plates that have the potential for controversy like this one does,” said Kansas Senate Minority Leader DInah Sykes. “Yes, there are other states that have this. There are other states that have the Confederate flag on their license plates.

“But Kansas doesn’t, and Kansas always stood as a free state.”

Frank Cerabino is a columnist at the Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at fcerabino@gannett.com. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: DeSantis: 5 things to know on Florida tag that warns out-of-state cars