Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a very tough “anti-riot” bill into law in Florida on Monday aimed at “combating public disorder” and protecting the police and citizens against rioters and protesters.
Penalties for crimes that are committed during rioting are being increased and those that harm police or citizens have been put on notice by DeSantis that they will go to jail. He pointedly noted that Florida would not allow another Portland to fester in the state with nightly riots and no penalties for actions taken against police and others. DeSantis has previously gone after rioters in his state.
“If you look at the breadth of this particular piece of legislation, it is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country,” DeSantis proclaimed at a press conference concerning HB 1. “There’s just nothing even close.”
The Florida Senate enthusiastically passed the bill last week 23-17. The legislation is in response to the protests and the “Defund the Police” movement that swept the nation.
(Video Credit: The Hill)
The law took effect immediately after DeSantis signed it. It grants civil legal immunity to those who are forced to drive through a mob of protesters blocking their access to a road. It also allows authorities to keep protesters behind bars until after their first court date. The bill makes the charge for battery on a police officer during a riot more serious. It also could potentially force any local governments in the state to “justify” cuts to law enforcement budgets.
The bill defines a “riot” as a public disturbance involving three or more people who are “acting with the common intent to assist each other in violent and disorderly conduct” that results in injury to another individual, damage to someone’s property, or danger of injury or damage.
The new law permits people to sue local governments over damages to their person or property if it is determined that they interfered with the police response during a riot. Penalties will also be increased for those who block roadways or vandalize monuments. The bill also creates a new punishable crime: “mob intimidation.” DeSantis told protesters to “mind your own business” during his press conference.
“We’re also putting an end to the bullying and intimidation tactics of the radical left by criminalizing doxing and requiring restitution for damaging memorials and monuments by rioters,” DeSantis stated.
Today, surrounded by our state’s law enforcement community, I proudly signed HB 1 into law, which makes clear that rioting and violence have absolutely no place in Florida and provides protections for the brave men and women who keep our communities safe. pic.twitter.com/ULs6cx8xzy
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 19, 2021
I want to thank President @WiltonSimpson, Speaker @ChrisSprowls, @DannyBurgessFL, @RepJuanFBarquin, @kellistargel, @Daniel_PerezFL, Rep. Cord Byrd and the Florida House and Senate for passing this legislation for the good of our state and for those we serve.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 19, 2021
Republicans note that the new law will protect police officers and will help stop riots and disorder following recent unrest in America.
Democrats, civil rights groups, and social justice activists are furious over the bill and call it an unconstitutional attack on free speech. They contend it makes it easier for the police to charge protesters with a crime.
“The problem with this bill is that the language is so overbroad and vague … that it captures anybody who is peacefully protesting at a protest that turns violent through no fault of their own,” claimed Kara Gross, the legislative director at ACLU Florida to the Orlando Sentinel. “Those individuals who do not engage in any violent conduct under this bill can be arrested and charged with a third-degree felony and face up to five years in prison and loss of voting rights. The whole point of this is to instill fear in Floridians.”
The Orlando Sentinel on Monday reported that DeSantis referenced the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin and hinted that he could be acquitted.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” DeSantis noted. “But I can tell you that case was bungled by the attorney general there in Minnesota. They didn’t handle it properly. And so there may be people disappointed.”
DeSantis told NBC News last week that the new 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.”
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