Florida drivers wishing to send a message about oppressive government have a new option for their vehicles. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) recently began promoting a new Gadsden flag license plate featuring the “Don’t Tread on Me” motto.
DeSantis announced that Florida drivers are now able to buy a presale voucher for $33 and that once 3,000 Gadsden plates are sold, the new license plates will go into production, Newsweek reported. The governor added that the plates will send a warning to out-of-staters while also providing funds for Florida veterans.
“The free state of Florida has a new license plate for pre-order that benefits the Florida Veterans Foundation and sends a clear message to out-of-state cars, ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ or Florida,” DeSantis said in a tweet.
The Sunshine State now joins 11 other states — Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arizona, Montana, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia — in offering Gadsden plates, the Palm Beach Post said.
This new Florida Gadsden plate isn’t without controversy, though, considering the long and shifting history of the flag.
The Gadsden flag we know today was created at the beginning of the American Revolution by Christopher Gadsden, a prominent leader in the Continental Army and delegate to the Continental Congress. He was also a merchant and onetime lieutenant governor of South Carolina.
Gadsden selected the image of a rattlesnake for his “Don’t Tread on Me” banner because he considered it a distinctively American creature that strikes only in self-defense. The flag soon became popular among colonists at war with British oppressors.
Over the years, the imagery has been adopted by corporations and political movements. Both Nike and the Philadelphia Union, a Major League Soccer team, have used the Gadsden flag commercially. And groups like the Tea Party and some militias have used it as a symbol against government oppression.
Some of the flag’s critics allege the flag is an image of right-wing intolerance because of how it has been co-opted by different groups. However, other observers argue that in today’s context it’s whatever the viewer makes of it.