There was not a whole lot of positive influence coming from Twitter in 2016, but one notable tweet that went out into the Twitterverse at the end of 2015 was one from St. Petesburg’s mayor Rick Kriseman in response to then presidential nominee Donald Trump calling for a ban on Muslims into the country.
“It was remarkable,” Kriseman recalls. “I never would have thought that the response would have been what it was. It was re-Tweeted I think 22,000 times and it was read more than a million times.”
The Tweet in which Kriseman jokingly barred trump for St. Petersburg kicked 2016 off with a plethora of attention.
I am hereby barring Donald Trump from entering St. Petersburg until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps.
— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman) December 8, 2015
“I had live interviews with MSNBC; CNN called and talked to me; Fox called but that I wasn’t going to do that. I spoke with the Washington Post and Israeli radio,” he says. “You know the overall response from within the community was very positive. I think they understood the tongue-in-cheek nature of it, but the serious nature of it too, is that the comments that were made were obscene.”
Kriseman went on to make more national news after North Carolina passed the anti-LGBTQ HB2 into law and businesses began to pull out of the state. He wrote an op-ed in the Charlotte Observer inviting any and all businesses to come open up shop in the inclusive and accepting city of St. Pete.
“We want to be a very competitive community and try to attract businesses here,” Kriseman says. “I believe that one of the ways that you attract businesses is by being diverse and welcoming and tolerant. Clearly this the actions taken by the legislature in North Carolina and their governor sent out a strong message that that’s not who they were. And so I felt that this is an opportunity for us to reach out to those businesses and say hey you know come to a place that is.”
Kriseman has always tried to make sure that the LGBTQ community knew they were welcomed. He has marches in the St. Pete Pride parade every chance he gets, he took St. Pete from a score of 66 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Index when he entered office to a 100 percent every year since (including 2016), and he has raised the Pride flag over City Hall every Pride since entering the office of mayor.
“We’re not going to be fearful here,” Kriseman says. “We’re going to continue to celebrate the diversity of this community and celebrate what it means to be LGBTQ in St. Petersburg.”
Gallery photos by Jake Stevens.