Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis Announces Bill That Would Criminalize Many Common Forms Of Protest
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) last week announced a major crackdown on common protest techniques performed by what he characterized as “violent agitators.”
Today I announced bold legislation that creates new criminal offenses and increases penalties for those who target law enforcement and participate in violent or disorderly assemblies. We will always stand with our men and women in uniform who keep our communities safe. pic.twitter.com/ITl5GmmrZJ
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) September 21, 2020
The governor introduced the legislation to make many everyday protest actions felonies at a press conference at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
DeSantis’ legislation package is referred to as the “Combatting: Violence, Looting, Disorder and Law Enforcement Protection Act.” The bill was designed to maintain “law and order” in the nation’s largest swing state during the final weeks of a campaign season otherwise dominated by President Donald Trump‘s coronavirus response. Critics call it an unconstitutional abomination.
Under DeSantis’ new bill, harsher penalties and longer jail time would be imposed on people engaged in disorderly assemblies. Under the law, property damage, roadway blockage and harassment would all become third-degree felonies. Congregating in a group of over seven people that cause injury or damage would become a felony. Throwing an object would become a crime punishable by a six-month term in prison. Also, making improper contact with an officer of the law would be punishable by a mandatory sentence of at least a six-month prison term. Cities that defund or dismantle law enforcement would also face state budget fund reductions.
“We’re not going to go down the road that other places have gone,” DeSantis said at a press briefing. “If you do it and you know that a ton of bricks will rain down on you, then I think people will think twice about engaging in this type of conduct.”
The bill, which seems to be inspired by some of Trump’s comments, is expected to go before the state’s GOP-led legislature next year. During the news conference, DeSantis only alluded to Trump, never mentioning him, but adding to an ever-greater schism between the GOP and Democrats.
The ACLU of Florida immediately eviscerated DeSantis’ proposal.
“Gov. DeSantis’ proposal is undemocratic and hostile to Americans’ shared values… This effort has one goal: silence, criminalize, and penalize Floridians who want to see justice for Black lives lost to racialized violence and brutality at the hands of law enforcement,” Micah Kubic, the ACLU of Florida’s executive director, said.