Florida passes ‘anti-riot’ invoice as civil rights teams warn it would stifle dissent | Florida

Florida has passed what is known as an “anti-riot” law, imposing tougher sentences on protesters, giving a victory to the state’s Republican governor, and striking a blow to civil rights groups warning against suppressing dissent.

The law, passed on Thursday by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, provides stricter punishment for crimes committed during a riot or violent protest. It would allow the authorities to detain arrested demonstrators pending a first appearance in court and it would create new crimes for organizing or participating in a violent demonstration.

The proposal would make it a second degree crime to destroy or demolish a memorial, plaque, flag, painting, structure, or other object that commemorates historical persons or events. That would be punished with up to 10 years in prison.

It would also deprive local governments of civil liability protection if they interfere with law enforcement efforts to respond to a violent protest, and it would add language to state law that could force local governments to cut law enforcement budgets justify.

The state Republicans have argued that the bill is about “law and order” and preventing violence. His approval is a major legislative victory for Governor Ron DeSantis, who campaigned for the measure last year after a summer of nationwide protests against racism and police brutality against black Americans.

However, critics have described the legislation as an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement as well as an attempt to restrict freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

In fact, the measure dates back to a September 21 governor press conference attended by Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls to condemn the unrest in cities across the country and what he calls attacks on law enforcement designated.

After the law was finally passed, DeSantis said he looked forward to incorporating the measure into the law.

“This legislation strikes the right balance to protect the constitutional right of every Floridian to peaceful assembly while ensuring that those who hide behind peaceful protests to cause violence in our communities are punished,” the governor said in a statement .

The move met with violent reactions over the months as community activists gathered in the state capital to ask lawmakers to reject the effort.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the new law would give the police wide discretion over what constitutes a demonstration and a riot.

“The bill was deliberately designed to promote the unequal police treatment we have seen time and again against black and brown people who exercise their constitutional right to protest,” said Micah Kubic, executive director of the Florida ACLU.

Christina Kittle, organizer of the Jacksonville Community Action Committee, warned the new law could escalate clashes between police and protesters.

“It was sure to be a blow to our morale,” she said. “I’m not sure it’s going to be a setback, but this was created to intimidate people and keep people from getting out.”

Senator Darryl Rouson, a former president of the NAACP chapter in St. Petersburg who voted on the bill alongside every Democrat and a lone Republican, said the new law would not prevent anyone from protesting against a just cause.

“This is not going to stop people from standing up,” said Rouson.

“That won’t stop anything except those who are afraid. I’m not scared, ”he said. “I just want to say to people, keep knocking, keep protesting, keep getting up, despite trying to suppress voices.”

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