Florida’s Senate voted to approve an anti-riot bill championed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), passing the measure 23-17 along party lines. Earlier the Florida House of Representatives passed the bill 76-39. The bill will now head to the office of the Florida Governor, who will sign it into law.
Anti Riot Bill
The anti-riot bill allows Florida citizens to sue a local government if the latter fails to stop a riot. By definition, a “riot” is a violent public disturbance involving three or more people.
The common intent of the participants results in “injury to others, damage to property, or the imminent danger of injury or damage.”
In addition, the bill creates a new second-degree felony called an “aggravated riot” which occurs when more than 25 people participate. Aggravated riots also cause great bodily injury to others. In addition, they cause property damages worth more than $5,000. Officials can charge rioters with aggravated riot if they use or threaten to use a deadly weapon. Or, if they block roadways by force or threat of force.
DeSantis Championed the Anti-Riot Bill
DeSantis, who championed the passage of the bill, said it’s about assigning responsibility when things get ugly.
“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.
Further, this legislation ensures that no community in the state engages in defunding of their police,” he explained.
In addition, the bill prohibits certain actions to happen during protests. It deals penalties to protestors who use intimidation or threat of force to confront counter-protesters or law enforcement officials.
Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel reported that many Democrats became upset over certain passages of the bill. “The parts of the bill (HB 1 ) that most upset Democrats grant civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road; prevent people arrested for rioting or offenses committed during a riot from bailing out of jail until their first court appearance, and impose a six-month mandatory sentence for battery on a police officer during a riot,” the media outfit reported.
Democrats Opposed the Bill, GOP Members Supported It
Florida Democrats opposed the bill, saying the measures affect First Amendment rights and restrict political dissent. In contrast, Republicans argued that the bill protects law enforcement officers and prevents public disorder.
The courts will issue criminal penalties to protestors if they assault law enforcers during a riot, or deface public property. The bill also penalizes local governments that interfere with law enforcement efforts to contain riots, A citizen’s appeal process will also activate when cities and counties try to reduce police budgets in response to riots.
GOP state Senator Ed Hooper clarified that the bill is not about racism but about law and order. Democratic state Sen. Jason Pizzo, who opposed the measure, tweeted a remark after the votes.
He said that “this legislative session will likely get its own custom box of Cards Against Humanity.”
Anti-riot Bill is Response To Violence Last Year
DeSantis started his quest for an anti-riot bill in September last year. The governor wanted a strong response to the protests against police bias and brutality last summer. Some of these protests became violent and incited rioting and looting in the neighboring areas.
In a conference call, Black Voters Matter co-founder and executive director Cliff Albright said the Florida anti-riot bill is a backlash against protests. “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,” he said.
Other States to Follow
Since the tumultuous January 6 riot at the Capitol, at least 13 states filed bills to crack down on protests. In addition to Florida, state lawmakers in Arizona, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington filed bills to establish a local riot law.
Notably, many of the bills read similar to those already filed by other states earlier last year.
Watch the FOX13 Tampa Bay new video where Polk Sheriff Grady Judd explains Florida’s new anti-riot bill:
Do you support the anti-riot bill that aims to penalize rioters further when they go too far? Or do you think that the bill is overkill and will eventually suppress dissent?
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