Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ staff said he’s working on an anti-riot law that will place harsher criminal charges on violent protesters. DeSantis first proposed the bill in September of last year. He was a vocal supporter of it during national protests that resulted in violence and looting in major cities.
According to NBC News, DeSantis announced: “This legislation strikes the appropriate balance of safeguarding every Floridian’s constitutional right to peacefully assemble while ensuring that those who hide behind peaceful protest to cause violence in our communities will be punished,”
And “Further, this legislation ensures that no community in the state engages in defunding of their police,”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, anyone who damages a historical figure memorial or incident can be charged with a second-degree felony. The bill further fights riots by providing civil legal protection to anybody who drives through a protest that attempts to block a traffic route.
The Orlando Sentinel reported the bill would jail those convicted of rioting until their first court date. Assault on a police officer as a riot is in progress will incur jail for up to 6 months.
Furthermore, the law rules that any community seeking to defund the police force must first have the state’s approval. Appropriate punishment for offenses such as robbery, arson, battering, and violence committed during a riot, among other things, will also be added to the Bill.
The 61-page House Bill 1 codifies new offenses, such as “mob intimidation,” making it “unlawful for a person, assembled with two or more other persons and acting with a common purpose, to use force or threaten to use imminent force, to compel or induce, or attempt to compel or induce, another person to do or refrain from doing some act, or to assume, abandon, or maintain a particular viewpoint.”
According to Fox News, Democratic state senator Daryl Rouson stated: “This won’t stop anything, except those who are afraid. I’m not afraid,” and “I just want to say to people, keep on knocking, keep on protesting, keep on rising in spite of an attempt to stifle voices.”
Cliff Albright, co-founder and executive director of Black Voters Matter, described the bill as an effort to limit protests linked to George Floyd’s death as “And in response to that, for the state to say, we’re going to criminalize your activity. We’re going to criminalize your passion. We’re going to criminalize your protest. That’s not what democracy looks like”
Sen. Danny Burgess, a Republican, who pushed the bill, said on Thursday:
“Unfortunately, what we didn’t hear a lot about today is the victims of the violence, the businesses, the jobs and the livelihoods that were lost because of the riots,” and “That’s what the bill is about; It’s not about peaceful protest. It’s about law and order.”