By David Volz
Margate Commissioner Anthony Caggiano was criticized during the January 24 meeting for agreeing to speak at the South Florida Muslim Federation Conference, which was to be held at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Coral Springs Hotel & Convention Center on January 12 and 13.
During the public comment time, five residents complained that Caggiano had agreed to speak as a Margate City Commissioner at what they believed was a controversial event.
Robert Reiner, Julie Jones, Jill Cerchione, Nina Culver, and Tracy VanWinkle said they were angry that a commissioner agreed to participate as a keynote speaker in a program organized by a group known to oppose the existence of Israel.
However, Corey Shearer spoke in favor of the event and then took pictures of those who spoke against it. He was scheduled to be the moderator at the conference.
“The man taking a video of us was trying to intimidate us,” said Culver, who is running for seat one against Caggiano. She was offended that he was willing to be a part of an event organized by people who are known to be antisemitic and promote violence.
One man who wanted to remain anonymous said that the video and audio captured in the video could be used to target the speakers.
Reiner, who is running for seat two, now occupied by Arlene Schwartz, said it was wrong for Caggiano to be involved with an organization that supports violence against Israel. “He used very poor judgment,” he said.
Mayor Tommy Ruzzano questioned Caggiano’s judgment by agreeing to participate in the event.
Caggiano said, “I was going to the event to encourage people to register to vote or, if they are registered, to get out and vote. I am against all groups that promote hatred and violence,” he said.
According to Caggiano, the event should have been allowed because most people involved were not violent.
After residents spoke, Caggiano gave a presentation on how much he supports peace in the Middle East and that he has friends in the Jewish community.
“I will never cheer for violence, and I am against Hamas. I am against antisemitism. I believe we should all co-exist peacefully and come together.”
Ruzzano said this is why the people are bothered because this was how he took it. “The perception of what the group was supporting and that you were speaking at it wasn’t one of your better decisions.”
- David Volz has worked as a writer in South Florida for 35 years. He has written for the Sun-Sentinel, Hollywood Gazette, School Transportation News, South Dade News Leaders, Observer among others. He has an MA in Communications from Florida Atlantic University and a BA in Communications from Valparaiso University. Volz teaches Communications at Miami Dade College and Palm Beach State College. He lives in Coral Springs and enjoys running and participating in 5Ks and half-marathons.
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