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Politics / Issues

Sarasota residents tell commissioners Rumble should not receive taxpayer money

Sarasota citizens protesting
Courtesy: Doreen Dupont
/
Doreen Dupont (far left) and Andriy Mulyarchuk (right) protest against Rumble's placement in Longboat Key.

Commissioners say the company's name hadn’t been made public at the time of the vote, so they were unaware that Rumble would receive the funding.

The Canadian-owned video platform Rumble would set up on Longboat Key if the county commission follows through with its funding.

According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, residents in the area have opposed its establishment in the area, as the platform airs the Russian state news channel.

The Sarasota County Commission voted to approve awarding an $825,000 incentive grant to Rumble in October through the county’s Economic Development Corporation to establish its U.S. headquarters in Longboat Key.

Commissioners say the company's name hadn’t been made public at the time of the vote, so they were unaware that Rumble would receive the funding.

Citizens at a March 29 commission meeting voiced their dissent.

Sarasota resident Adrian Lucas presented over 1,000 signatures from various petitions asking for the commission and its economic development component to drop all current and future ties with Rumble.

“Free speech in Sarasota is not free if taxpayers in Sarasota have to fit the bill,” she said.

Lucas added that commissioners could move forward with the Rumble funding, but said taxpayers should not be funding these developments.

“I don’t care about Rumble coming here,” Lucas said. “If they want to come to Longboat Key and be in their little palace that’s fine. But not on our dime.”

Another resident, Cathy Antunes, said the platform pushes misinformation on many topics.

“It’s a platform hosting insurrectionists,” Antunes said. “It’s an anti-vaccine platform; it actually directs people to misinformation about COVID.”

She adds that she wants commissioners to take responsibility for what she says are the platform’s consequences.

“Please don’t hide behind the (Economic Development Corporation),” Antunes said. “This commission is absolutely responsible for every dollar rewarded.”

Andriy Mulyarchuk is originally from Ukraine, even though he has spent the past 15 years in the U.S.

Mulyarchuk said platforms like Rumble promote dangerous “propaganda” in the community.

He emphasized that during the 2015 Russian and Ukraine conflict, when “Russians were killing people,” his own “relatives didn’t believe it” due to “dangerous propaganda.”

He argued that the commission should stray from funding this kind of platform because of issues such as this.

While the commissioners are considering plans to dissolve the agreement with Rumble, they ultimately moved this action item to their next meeting.

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