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The view from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign stop in Miami

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. hits the campaign trail to celebrate his launch of an independent run for president while visiting supporters at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS)

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the former Democratic candidate for president who this week said he would seek the White House as an independent, brought his long-shot campaign to Miami on Thursday, attracting a small crowd of anti-establishment supporters.

Addressing a few dozen people at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts near downtown Miami, Kennedy — the nephew of assassinated president John F. Kennedy — delivered a meandering 45-minute speech that touched on a variety of issues ranging from housing prices, economic inequality and the U.S. military-industrial complex.

Miami Beach City Commissioner Ricky Arriola, left, flexes as he tells the crowd how fit Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is as he approaches the podium. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS)

He criticized America’s past and current military decisions, claiming that the U.S. has spent trillions on wars, created the Islamic State terrorist group and destabilized Europe in the process. He also said that the U.S. government is using Ukraine aid as a “money laundering scheme” for military contractors, but then later went on to express that the U.S. should support Israel following last week’s attacks by Hamas.

“We don’t have strategic interests for being in Ukraine, but we have an absolutely critical existential strategic interest for being in Israel, for supporting them. Israel has never asked for troops. They never will. What they want is our support and they need some of our weapons,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy, whose critics have labeled him a conspiracy theorist — he has said that WiFi causes “leaky brain” and that chemicals in drinking water are leading kids to identify as transgender — also said that U.S. politicians are using divisive tactics like “culture wars” to keep Americans fighting among themselves.

“It’s like the jangling keys, all these culture wars, so as you look over here, they’re robbing the bank over there,” said Kennedy.

He finalized his speech by comparing his supporters to the masses overthrowing a monarchy.

“They know as long as we’re all fighting each other, that nobody’s coming up the castle wall. And what I want to do with this campaign, and my presidency, is to put aside those squabbles and let’s all go over that castle wall.”

Kennedy’s Supporters

Polls of the Democratic presidential primary consistently showed President Joe Biden with a strong majority of support in his party for a second term. Kennedy had averaged about 15% support among Democrats prior to announcing Monday that he would run as an independent.

Though Kennedy’s own siblings have condemned his campaign, he said he believes that he can win because his appearances on podcasts and long-form interviews have proven that he has the ability to convert viewers quickly and gain support from unexpected demographics.

The crowd for his speech on Thursday was no more than a few dozen. Those who showed up included vaccine skeptics and those disgruntled with the state of politics in the U.S.

“This guy, he’s got chutzpah. He’s asking the tough questions and he’s fighting the good fight,” said Chuck Muldoon, a Miami resident who considers himself a “monetary reform activist.”

Muldoon, 54, said he became interested in Kennedy after seeing him question the “crimes of banking” and “pharmaceuticals.”

Lianette Laria, 46, came to the event decked in Kennedy gear and brought with her a small Kennedy poster and a mini American flag. She said that she and her husband, John Lewis, 55, became interested in Kennedy long before his announcement to run for president because of his warnings about vaccines. (Kennedy’s claims about vaccines include the debunked assertion that they cause autism, and once led the social-media company Meta to pull down Facebook and Instagram accounts of Kennedy’s Children’s Health Defense.)

“RFK Jr. is a hero. He’s been fighting for the most vulnerable segment of our population which is our children,” said Lewis. “It’s unfortunate that he gets labeled as an anti-vaxxer, I’m not anti-vaxxer but I’m anti-scientism.”

Jalen Martin, 23, attended Kennedy’s event because, although he voted for Donlad Trump in the past, he doesn’t want to vote for him in the upcoming election. With Trump and President Joe Biden looking to be the respective candidates for the Republican and Democratic parties for the presidential election, Martin is interested to see how far Kennedy can go.

“We’re all here for an independent voice,” said Martin. “I think this is an interesting route we have forward with Kennedy, and I think we need someone who’s going to pull a lot of people in.”


© 2023 Miami Herald

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