Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) is protecting civilians with a bill that dramatically increases the penalties against crimes that occur during protests.
“What you have to have is clear and predictable penalties,” said DeSantis on Monday. “I look at what goes on in Portland and they’ll have people; they’ll arrest them. These are scraggly-looking ANTIFA types. They get their mugshot taken and then they get released. And it’s like a carousel; and on and on it goes.”
DeSantis’s proposal criminalizes assemblies during which property damage or injury occurs and punishes protestors who engage in violence or obstruct traffic during such assemblies with third-degree felony charges.
Under the bill, any person convicted of destroying a monument during a violent assembly will be hit with a second-degree felony charge; any person convicted of harassing someone at a public venue will be punished with a first-degree misdemeanor; any person convicted of attacking a police officer will be punished with a mandatory minimum sentence of six months.
In addition, any individual convicted of participating in a violent protest will lose eligibility for state benefits and state/local government employment. Any individual charged with a crime related to a violent protest will have no bail option until after his/her first court appearance.
Motorists who inadvertently kill or injure someone while fleeing a violent assembly will not be charged.
“This is what leadership looks like,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. “This is remarkable. This is a state that you want to come and vacation. This is a state where you want to grow your business. This is a state where you can be safe.”
The bill also includes a provision that reduces state funding to municipalities that appear to be defunding their police forces and enables Florida to use R.I.C.O. liability against any person or group caught organizing/funding a violent protest.
“We’re going to figure out who’s organizing and who’s funding that, and we’ll hold them accountable,” promised DeSantis, describing situations where pallets of bricks and other projectiles have been conveniently dropped off before demonstrations.
As expected, Democrats accused DeSantis of scaring civilians, harming the Black Lives Matter movement, and ignoring police misconduct.
“This effort has one goal: silence, criminalize, and penalize Floridians who want to see justice for black lives lost to radicalized violence and brutality at the hands of law enforcement,” argued Micah Kubic of the ACLU.
Florida lawmakers will begin to negotiate the language of the bill immediately, but won’t be able to approve it until March 2021. You can read the entire proposal here.
Author’s Note: DeSantis is acting exactly how a governor should protect his people during a time of unprecedented violence. If his proposal works as intended, it will dissuade people from attending protests and remove the bad actors who have turned peaceful demonstrations into violent riots.
This bill is particularly important in a state that depends on tourism and regularly hosts people from all over the world. The last thing you want during a vacation is to wind up in the middle of a protest.