Florida Governor Signs “Anti-Riot” Bill
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday signed an “anti-riot” bill that aims to combat public disorder by increasing the penalties for crimes committed during violent protests, including attacks on police.
“It is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country,” said DeSantis during a signing ceremony in Winter Haven. “There’s just nothing even close.”
The Combating Public Disorder Act, first introduced during the riots following the death of George Floyd, goes into effect immediately. In addition to added penalties for crimes committed during riots, the law:
- Allows law enforcement to detain persons arrested during a riot until the first court date without the possibility of bail.
- Grants legal immunity to drivers when protestors are injured by a vehicle if those protesters were blocking a road.
- Enables the state of Florida to penalize local governments that reduce police budgets.
- Makes it easier for residents and businesses to sue over property damage that occurs during a riot.
- Prohibits the destruction or defacing of monuments and historic property, including flags.
- Establishes “mob intimidation” and “aggravated rioting” as crimes, with the latter carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years.
- Makes blocking a highway a felony offense.
“If you riot, if you loot, if you harm others, particularly if you harm a law enforcement officer, during one of these violent assemblies, you’re going to jail,” vowed DeSantis. “We’re going to hold you accountable and we’re not going to end up like Portland, where this is just a daily occurrence for these people who are doing this.”
Critics view the law as an attack on freedom of speech that will increase prison populations.
Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones (D-West Park) described the anti-riot bill as a “distraction that will only further disenfranchise black and brown communities,” while ACLU executive Kara Gross expressed concern that it would lead to the arrest of innocent people.
“The problem with this bill…it captures anybody who is peacefully protesting at a protest that turns violent through no fault of their own,” argues Gross. “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.”
As I wrote in a previous article about civil unrest in Portland (click here), individuals who decide to participate in a protest should understand the risks.
To summarize, Florida’s new law is an important tool for police that upholds citizens’ constitutional right to protest while discouraging the sort of violence and property damage that has become all too common in many cities throughout the country – in some places to the point where residents establish autonomous zones and block police from entering.
Shockingly, the majority of citations against protestors in 2020 were dropped, dismissed, or never filed.
Editor’s Note: DeSantis is the prototype for Republican governors. If he were governor of Minnesota, there would be no riots and indeed very little controversy. If Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) did what she did in Florida, she would be in jail for inciting a riot and tampering with a jury trial.