Rebekah Jones, who challenged the government's narrative on Covid-19, holds that the raid is an ongoing attempt of state governor Ron DeSantis to intimidate scientists working on coronavirus statistics.
Florida state police armed with guns raided the home of data scientist Rebekah Jones on Monday morning and confiscated her computer and phone, which she uses in her work publishing coronavirus figures on Florida and American school districts. She has been in a dispute with the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, for several months over its handling of Covid-19 statistics.
The news comes as the United States, known as the foremost proponent of democracy and free speech expression around the globe, continues to decline on key indicators associated with robust democracies.
In a video posted by Jones on Twitter, she can be seen being escorted out of her house by police with handguns. One of the officers can be seen pointing a gun up the stairs in her home after being told her husband and children were there, and she can be heard exclaiming, “He just pointed a gun at my children!”
1/— Rebekah Jones (@GeoRebekah) December 7, 2020
There will be no update today.
At 8:30 am this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardware and tech.
They were serving a warrant on my computer after DOH filed a complaint.
They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids.. pic.twitter.com/DE2QfOmtPU
Freedom House’s most recent report pointed to trends in the US that demonstrate “an effort to undermine democratic norms and standards,” including, “pressure on electoral integrity, judicial independence, and safeguards against corruption [as well as] [f]ierce rhetorical attacks on the press, the rule of law, and other pillars of democracy coming from American leaders, including the president himself.”
Jones was fired from the Florida Department of Public Health in May, and alleges that her dismissal came after her refusal to “manipulate” the state’s coronavirus data.
“I think that as soon as I said no to one of the many things that they were doing that weren't ethical, they realised that the data wasn't so much the problem as the data keeper. And by moving me out of the way, they could do whatever they wanted, show whatever they wanted,” she told NPR in June.
She then continued to publish data independently by creating an alternative data portal.
In her Tweets, Jones claimed that DeSantis was behind the raid. “He [DeSantis] sent the gestapo. This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly. This is what happens to people who speak truth to power,” she wrote.
2/— Rebekah Jones (@GeoRebekah) December 7, 2020
They took my phone and the computer I use every day to post the case numbers in Florida, and school cases for the entire country.
They took evidence of corruption at the state level.
They claimed it was about a security breach.
This was DeSantis.
He sent the gestapo.
This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly.— Rebekah Jones (@GeoRebekah) December 7, 2020
This is what happens to people who speak truth to power.
I tell them my husband and my two children are upstairs... and THEN one of them draws his gun.
On my children.
This is Desantis' Florida.
A state official claimed in November that someone had “hacked” into the state emergency communications system to send a message stating, “speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be a part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.” According to a search warrant, authorities traced this breach to Jones.
CJones denies this, saying she believes it aimed to determine and target her sources in the state bureaucracy. “This just is a very thinly veiled attempt of the governor to intimidate scientists and get back at me while trying to get to my sources, as he’s been firing DoH [Department of Health] staff left and right.”