A Florida woman whose complaints led to school restrictions for a poem read at Joe Biden’s inauguration appears to have ties to several far-right groups, including the Ron DeSantis-supported Moms for Liberty and neo-fascist gang the Proud Boys.
In a complaint requesting that her child’s school remove the books entirely, Daily Salinas claimed that The Hill We Climb – Amanda Gorman’s book-length version of the poem she read at the president’s inauguration ceremony – and several other titles contained references to critical race theory, gender ideology, “indirect hate messages,” and “indoctrination,” especially of socialism, according to documents shared by the Florida Freedom to Read Project.
Her complaint prompted the school to restrict access to the book, along with The ABCs of Black History, Cuban Kids and Love to Langston. A school committee moved the books to the library’s middle school section, despite the books being recommended for younger readers.
Ms Salinas told the Miami-Herald that she “is not for eliminating or censoring any books” but wants materials to be appropriate and for students “to know the truth” about Cuba.
But she appears to have connections with or has expressed support for several far-right groups that have promoted sweeping restrictions against LGBT+ people and honest discussions of race and racism, according to a review of her social media history and online activity from Miami Against Fascism and The Daily Beast.
In August 2021, she was photographed alongside Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio during a protest against Covid-19 protections in Miami-Dade schools.
The following year, while wearing a Ron DeSantis T-shirt, she attended another rally organised by Proud Boys to support far-right activist Christoper Monzon, a 2017 “Unite the Right” rally attendee who was allegedly beaten while canvassing for Republican Senator Marco Rubio last year. Ms Salinas also was photographed posing with Mr Monzon and a small group of his supporters after his release from hospital.
That same year, Ms Salinas also worked as a volunteer for the governor’s “Education Agenda Tour,” which promoted right-wing candidates in school board elections as part of his efforts to upend the state’s education system.
Video from a Miami-Dade school board meeting in July 2022 appears to show Ms Salinas with the group Moms for Liberty disrupting the hearing to protest sex education textbooks that had previously been approved by the board. Footage shows police forcibly removing her from the meeting.
Moms for Liberty, a right-wing group that emerged from protests over Covid-19 guidelines, has offered so-called bounties for reporting teachers who allegedly discuss “divisive topics” in schools, attacked The Trevor Project for supporting young LGBT+ people at risk of suicide, and launched a barrage of book challenges.
The group has also won praise from Mr DeSantis, who appointed one of its members to a board that now controls properties operated by the Walt Disney Company for its massive Orlando park campus.
The Independent has requested comment from the group’s Miami-Dade chapter.
A review of Ms Salinas’ social media history includes a Facebook post calling the Proud Boys “los mejores”, or “the best.”
“My Proud Boys,” she wrote in the post on April 2021, above a photo of Tarrio with other members of the group.
In March of this year, she shared a Facebook post promoting the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a fraudulent century-old piece of antisemitic propaganda.
Ms Salinas appeared to have deleted the post after it was flagged by Miami Against Fascism on Twitter. She then posted an image of an Israeli Defense Force soldier with a caption reading: “People never seen this. I love my Jewish people.”
“I want to apologize to the Jewish community,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on 24 May. “I’m not what the post says,” she added. “I love the Jewish community.”
She also co-hosted a Spanish-language podcast – “Hablando Como Los Locos” – that published an episode with the caption “Learn more about Kanye West, his polemic, his message” on 5 December 2022. Four days earlier, the rapper appeared on Alex Jones’s InfoWars and praised Adolf Hitler.
The Independent has requested comment from Ms Salinas.
Mr DeSantis – who has entered the race for the 2024 Republican nomination for president – has ushered through sweeping laws to control public school education and lessons and speech he deems to be objectionable while characterising reporting on the impacts of such policies as a “hoax” and a “fake narrative” manufactured by the press.
The state is at the centre of a nationwide trend of challenges against books and materials in libraries and schools, while the governor continues to falsely insist that no books have been banned as he launches his 2024 campaign.
A trio of state laws enacted within the last school year include what opponents have called the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in all school grades, and laws that restrict discussions of race or racism, and mandate how schools catalog books on their shelves. Taken together, teachers and schools have been forced to remove materials out of fear of facing legal action without clear guidance, or have faced an increase in threats and challenges from activists emboldened by legislation.
Last week, Penguin Random House and several prominent authors and families filed a federal lawsuit against a school district where activists have challenged dozens of books, largely involving or written by people of colour or LGBT+ people.
In Escambia County alone, nearly 200 books have been challenged, at least 10 books have been removed by the school board, five books were removed by district committees, and 139 books require parental permission, according to an analysis from free expression group PEN America.
In Florida’s Clay County, at least 100 books were pulled off shelves after challenges from a single person, PEN America found.