A statement that questioned if July Fourth celebrations were appropriate in the wake of “division, hate and unrest” across the country has prompted cheers, backlash and an apology from the city of Orlando, Florida.
The statement appeared in a July 1 email newsletter that promoted the city's annual "Fireworks at the Fountain 2022" event, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
"A lot of people probably don’t want to celebrate our nation right now, and we can’t blame them. When there is so much division, hate and unrest, why on earth would you want to have a party celebrating any of it?" the statement began.
In the wake of the email, some — including local residents, conservative politicians, the press secretary for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and a local police union representing 800 officers — took to social media to protest what they characterized as its "disrespectful" and "inflammatory" tone.
A day later, officials issued an apology for the statement on behalf of the city on Facebook and Twitter, where it attracted thousands of likes and comments.
“The City of Orlando sincerely regrets the negative impact our words have had on some in our community,” the statement read. “We understand these words offended some of our residents, which was not our intent. We value the freedoms we have in this country and are thankful to the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for those. We take pride in celebrating the 4th of July to express our gratitude to those men and women and honor the country we live in.”
But the apology wasn't enough to stymie all criticism.
"Very sad that this level of disrespect for our country has infected the City in this way," one Facebook user replied to the apology post. "So very, very sad and embarrassing for our city."
Another wrote: "It is because of our independence that we are able to disagree, voice our opinions, and encourage our government to be of the people, by the people, and for the people—not only those with whom we agree. There is so very much to celebrate."
Others cheered the initial statement, with some characterizing it as honest and humorous, pointing to the Supreme Court's recent overruling of Roe v. Wade as one example of the country's "division." A recent NPR/PBS/Marist poll found that a majority of Americans — 56% — say they oppose the high court's decision.
"You said what a lot of us are thinking and expressing to those around us," a Facebook user commented under the city's apology. "Not only should you not apologize, you should be applauded for raising what so many of us are feeling."
"I thought the message was 100% on point," another wrote. "I was pleased to see that the government was acknowledging the division and unrest that I feel daily. There’s no flag out on my house this year."
What critics have dubbed Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law — which took effect Friday and prohibits "instruction" about sexual orientation or gender identity "in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards" — has also been a source of division, with some LGBTQ students and teachers saying they feel under attack as a result of the new law.
Supporters of the law argue that it only applies to children in kindergarten through third grade and that its aim is to give parents more jurisdiction over their young children’s education.
A March Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 51% of U.S. voters supported "banning the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade," while 35% were opposed.