What Is the Meaning Behind Florida's 'Don't Tread On Me' License Plates

Drivers in the state of Florida can now order "Don't Tread on Me" license plates complete with the yellow and black image of the Gadsden Flag, which dates back to the Revolutionary War.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced that drivers in the Sunshine State can purchase a presale voucher for the license plates at a cost of $33 at their local tax collector's office.

The "Don't Tread On Me" plate will go into production once 3,000 are sold. DeSantis said money raised from the sale of the plates will go towards the Florida Veterans Foundation, which approved the design of the plates.

"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 tweeted on July 30.

Don't Tread On Me license plates
Money from the "Don't Tread on Me" license plates will help support the Florida Veterans Foundation. Ron DeSantis/Twitter

The phrase "don't tread on me" appears on the Gadsden Flag, which was designed by Christopher Gadsden during the American Revolution and was originally associated with colonists fighting for independence from Britain.

The flag featuring a coiled-up rattlesnake has since been used as an anti-establishment symbol in modern times, including being co-opted by the hard-line Republican Tea Party movement and other libertarian groups.

In recent years, the Gadsden Flag has also been used by far-right and anti-government militia groups and appeared at anti-coronavirus lockdown protests and the January 6 "stop the steal" demonstrations in Washington D.C. which preceded the Capitol riot.

Much like the Confederate Flag, the Gadsden Flag is accused of harboring racial connotations, seeing as its designer owned and traded Black slaves.

As a result, social media users have criticized DeSantis for using the "don't tread on me" quote for license plates.

"Leave it to FL Gov DeSantis to offer a License Plate which depicts their MAGA Qnut Right Wing Symbol of Hate on an official FL License Plate, what's next the Confederate Flag?" one Twitter user wrote. "Plenty of other symbols can be used to benefit Veterans."

Author Justin O'Donnell added: "'Visit your local tax collector to purchase a license plate that says don't tread on me.' There's so much wrong with this sentence. Florida will never be free until the people realize that this is a trap."

In a statement to Newsweek, a spokesperson for DeSantis called the claims "absurd" which likely came from "political opponents looking to smear the governor."

"From a historical perspective, the Gadsden flag was used during the American Revolution by colonists fighting for freedom from the oppressive big government of the English king," the statement added. "That spirit has guided America to this day, and Governor DeSantis likewise believes that freedom is a worthy pursuit and viable alternative to heavy-handed government.

"Many Floridians celebrate Florida as the vanguard of freedom, and countless others have moved here from across the country to live under a state government that enshrines freedom in its decision making."