PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Dozens of people gathered outside of The Union League of Philadelphia’s headquarters on Broad Street to protest the arrival of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He’s being honored with the league’s top award.
But, it appears his first stop was grabbing a cheesesteak at Delassandro’s in Roxborough.
Black community leaders came out Tuesday in objection to the award because they say the award known as the Gold Medal of Honor sends the wrong message — some argue it’s divisive and detrimental to Black and brown communities.
The ceremony is a members-only ticketed event and was to be sold out.
The Union League of Philadelphia was an elite society founded in 1862 to support President Abraham Lincoln. It’s honored conservative leaders like former Sen. John McCain and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.
But now, the club selected the Florida governor as a recipient of its prestigious Thomas Jefferson Gold Medal.
Politicians, religious leaders and activists are outraged saying honoring the controversial conservative Republican contradicts the values they believe Lincoln stood for.
“How dare they decide to give this man this award,” Councilmember Sharon Vaugh said.
“We are appalled that they would award their highest award to the governor of Florida,” Black clergy of Philadelphia Rev. Robert Collier said.
“This decision today represents a step backward,” attorney Keri Bradford-Grey said.
“Gov. DeSantis wishes to completely sanitize our country, college lecture halls of Black history,” Melissa Robbins said.
Reportedly more than 100 Black members of the club voiced opposition to welcoming DeSantis.
The governor has notably received backlash for his recent political decision toon African American history. He’s also bused undocumented migrants out of Florida.
“This is not about him,” Paster Wallace said. “This is about Philadelphia and the people who are hosting him.”
Neither The Union League nor DeSantis offices haven’t responded to CBS Philadelphia’s requests in attempts for an interview and leaders say their requests to rescind DeSantis’ invitation were ignored. Now they’re demanding the city boycott the organization.
“We want you to cancel this award and more importantly we’re putting The Union League on notice,” Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson said.
“If the Union League continues with its desire to grant him this award, it is slapping all of us in the face, and denying us our equal rights,” Collier said. “And we are protesting.”
Following the event, protestors are calling on union members to cancel their memberships and other organizations to boycott the Union League and its facilities.