FL Legislative Update & Actions: DeSantis Anti-Protest Bill
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Florida Legislators’ are fast-tracking Governor Ron DeSantis’ sixty-page bill (HB1/SB484) which supports draconian police state measures to criminalize Black Lives Matter protestors and peaceful dissenters in the state. Instead of discussing laws that could fix the broken and racist system Republican lawmakers at the FL House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee have prioritized a public hearing for HB1 at their next committee meeting January 27th at 4 pm.
Florida currently faces the worst economic and public health crisis in history and instead of working to find solutions Florida lawmakers Rep. Fernandez-Barquin and Senator Burgess repackaged legislation put forward by Governor DeSantis and filed it on January 6th, 2021 as a law and order “response to the violent insurrectionist mobs” of Trump supporters that attempted an armed coup on the nation’s Capital. This language is a smokescreen for the true intent of the bill which is to: 1) circumvent the mess that Florida has as a consequence of bad governance during a pandemic and 2) heighten persecution of BLM protestors for speaking out about racist police violence and the lack of government support for the most impacted.
Right-wing messaging is that this bill is “combatting public disorder” caused by rioting and looting after or during a protest but Section 870 and Section 775 of the currently existing Florida Statute criminalizes riots, unlawful assemblies, and looting. Do we really need a sixty-page anti-mob bill to handle the few looters the state has seen? Of course not.
What the bill is really doing is raising sentencing and fines for laws already on the books, redefining arrest categories to make them more open-ended, and making it legal for motorists who strike protestors with their vehicle, even if the incident results in someone’s death. Furthermore, the bill limits people’s ability to apply to Florida’s already broken unemployment system if they have been convicted under the proposed legislation and allows victims of violent crimes to recover civil damages from a local government that it deems responsible for grossly negligent “policing” during a “riot”. Meanwhile, the Florida Legislature is fast-tracking HB7/SB72 to create COVID19 liability immunity for real victims of negligence by businesses, government agencies, schools, and religious organizations who have caused the spread of COVID19 (read more and take action on this bill HERE).
The Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida, Micah Kubic, stated that:
“This (bill) is not an attempt to make our communities safer. This proposed legislation by DeSantis is nothing more than a campaign political stunt. Now, it is being disguised as a response to the failed violent coup at the US Capitol. And, it is just as unconstitutional.”
A statewide survey of Florida voters put out after the attack by Donald Trump’s supporters on the US Capitol suggested a lack of support for HB1 and Governor DeSantis’ push to amp up criminal penalties for “disorderly” protests. Ninety-percent of those asked stated their support for “protecting our constitutional right to free assembly and free speech by legally protesting without fear of criminal charges”. Seventy-one percent of Democrats and 74% of Republicans deemed the issue a top priority. Eighty percent of respondents said they were more likely to support a legislator who voted to protect that priority, and 56% were “much more likely”. On the other hand, 83% of respondents thought that it was important to strengthen unemployment protections for people who lost their jobs because of COVID-19, 63% said that this was “very important”.
Finally, this legislation also creates a preemptive attack on local municipalities that might want to “defund” the police and put their money towards more humanitarian initiatives to provide real solutions to small business and economic crises caused by the pandemic. Instead of restricting local government’s ability to find solutions we need legislation that answers the call of the people in the streets. People only protest when they are being abused, oppressed, marginalized or violated. The only thing the Florida Legislature is required to do by law is pass a budget, and yet we still have not addressed the $5.4 billion in the deficit caused by the pandemic and the hundreds of thousands across the state dying, becoming homeless, and destitute. Is this really what the Florida Legislature should be focusing on?
Clearly not. We need to answer the call of the people in the streets. Not arrest them.
HELP STOP HB1 – TAKE ACTION before 1/27/2021
2) SPEAK OUT against the bill or WAIVE AGAINST it at the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Register HERE with Florida PAN and we will tell you how it works and help get you messaging.
3) To get more involved in organizing against this bill FILL OUT THIS FORM and join bi-weekly coalition calls.
READ MORE ON HB1/SB484:
Amid Capitol chaos, Florida Lawmakers file bill to crack down on protest, Gray Rohrer, Orlando Sentinel, 1/7/2021
Florida legislative leaders release anti-riot bills this week, Dara Kam, Tallahassee Democrat, 1/8/2021
Democrats call DeSantis anti-protest bill ‘overkill’ and say it would target Blacks, Gray Rohrer, Orlando Sentinel, 1/11/2021
Do we need an Anti-Mob Bill?, Isaac Egar, Sarasota Magazine, 1/19/2021
Opinion poll: As legislative session looms, Florida GOP leadership might be out of step with voters, Michael Moline, The Florida Phoenix, 1/20/21
ACLU of Florida Denounces Gov. DeSantis’ Proposal to Criminalize Protest, ACLU of Florida Website