Radical leftist legal org with university ties has 10-acre 'haven' in Florida 'enchanted forest'

A leader of a radical leftist legal organization in Florida recently said they need to use a 10-acre property as a 'haven' because of hostility towards 'critical knowledge' in the state.

The CRT-inspired organization, called 'LatCrit,' is an association of legal activists committed to principles derived from 'feminist legal theory, critical race theory ... and queer theory.'

A leader of a radical leftist legal organization in Florida recently said the group need to use its 10-acre forest property as a “haven” because of hostility towards “critical knowledge” in the state. Soon after the property was purchased, the University of Miami (UM) gave the leftist organization $80,000. 

The organization, called “Latina & Latino Critical Legal Theory Inc.,” or “LatCrit” for short, is an association of legal scholars and activists committed to applying principles derived from “feminist legal theory, critical race theory, critical race feminism ... and queer theory” to legal issues both in the United States and around the world.

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LatCrit “emerged out of a series of debates stemming from various Critical Race Theory meetings,” according to its website. The founder of the organization, Francisco Valdes, is a law professor at UM and began formulating the idea of LatCrit’s activist campus, called “Camp Sano,” at least ten years ago.

The reasoning behind the campus, Valdes said then, was that LatCrit’s “counter-tradition, to be truly enduring, needed a home of its own, adding “We needed a brick-and-mortar base ... A community campus that would be autonomous and would be there to serve the needs of antisubordination scholars and activists.”

Steven Bender, another LatCrit leader, joined Valdes in a UC Irvine law talk in February and said, “We need to explore the possibilities of Campo Sano as a critical physical haven in a state - Florida - that’s otherwise hostile. Sort of the epitome of hostility to critical knowledge.”

“To level the playing field and to give the LatCrit activists a fighting chance to be heard, [LatCrit has] purchased a small facility near Ocala, Florida to serve as the hub of their educational, research, advocacy and activism to remedy the imbalance and deficiencies in the current legal system,” the Campo Sano page reads. 

According to a paper by Valdes, Campo Sano was purchased in 2011 after LatCrit members, during a conference, “drove up to an enchanted forest of majestic oaks turned into artist retreat by an elderly couple.”

“Within a month, the enchanted forest was ours. Soon, we were calling the tract as a whole ‘Campo Sano’-Camp Wellness,” it reads.

Although LatCrit now has a fully operational “base,” the University of Miami is the principal address for the radical legal organization. The university also gave funds to LatCrit right after the Campo Sano purchase.  

UM tax filings for 2012 and 2013 show two $40,000 donations to LatCrit. In subsequent years, LatCrit’s Facebook page posted pictures of an installed salt water pool, Valdes and others drinking, and a “Future Plans” sketch including a “sleeping barn” at Campo Sano. 

Other pictures show LatCrit members writing at tables and in comfy chairs at the estate. 

When asked for comment, Bender, speaking on behalf of LatCrit’s board, told Campus Reform, “[A]s reflected in public records, universities sponsor academic conferences all the time, including in law and LatCit conferences.” Bender added that the property has been used for “writing retreats and board meetings,” but was not paid for by UM.

Another professor in the group, Margaret Montoya, also spoke in the recent February UC Irvine video with Bender and Valdes. At the end of the promotional presentation, she admonished viewers, saying, “We have a subgroup of students and recent grads, if you’re interested, please contact me. We are trying to involve students in this progress.”

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“The lowest 50 percent now own 3.3 percent of the nation’s wealth. And you know what, slavery and racism are the chief reasons. This is acknowledged by virtually all economists now,” Montoya continued. 

All relevant parties in this article have been contacted for comment and this article will be updated accordingly.