Northside Coalition amongst civil rights teams submitting go well with difficult ‘anti-riot’ invoice

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Civil rights groups are trying to invalidate a newly signed Florida law that targets demonstrations that turn violent, arguing in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that the new law is racially motivated.

They also said the law has already silenced activists who wanted to speak out against police wrongdoing and other concerns from their communities.

The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the groups in Tallahassee Federal District, said local residents, particularly black-led groups, “organize and conduct protests against racial justice, fear that their members will risk criminal liability just because they commit themselves speak out and advocate changes. “

Governor Ron DeSantis signed the so-called “anti-riot” law last month. He had asked lawmakers to send him laws that would tighten the penalties against violent protesters after the tumultuous demonstrations over the police’s treatment of blacks last year.


The murder of a black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis last year sparked the passion of protesters across the country as protesters took to the streets to voice their concerns under the banner of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

The riots raised concerns about the potential for violence and prompted DeSantis to call for legislation.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The new law, also known as HB1, increases penalties for crimes committed during a riot or violent protest. It also enables the authorities to detain arrested protesters pending a first appearance in court and to investigate new offenses for organizing or participating in a violent demonstration.

In addition, the law forces local governments to justify cuts in law enforcement budgets.

It also makes it a second degree crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, to destroy a memorial, plaque, flag, painting, structure, or any other object that commemorates historical persons or events or demolish.


Last month, the nonprofit Legacy Entertainment & Arts Foundation also tried to overturn the new law in federal court in Orlando. She said it violated the protection of freedom of speech under the First Amendment, the protection of the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment, and the protection of due process under the 14th Amendment.

The American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP lawsuit on Tuesday seeks to break the law on behalf of Dream Defenders, the NAACP’s Florida State Conference, the Black Collective, the Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward, the Chainless Change, and the Northside Coalition of Pick up Jacksonville.

“Like the nationwide demonstrations, the Florida demonstrations were largely non-violent,” the lawsuit said. “But during the protests in Florida and across the country, a familiar scene developed: that of unarmed protesters carrying signs and being confronted by heavily armed police in riot gear.”


As a result, according to the lawsuit, activists fear “illegal arrest under HB1, not because they have or intend to protest violent, but … have often seen protests turn violent because of police or counter-protesters. “

The lawsuit, citing data and examples, alleges that the law could discriminate against blacks in a state whose prison population is already disproportionately African-American. It is alleged that the law gives the police too much discretion and could lead to the arrest of peaceful protesters who are temporarily blocking streets.

“Potential protesters – and particularly black-led organizations and blacks familiar with the systemic inequality of law enforcement against blacks in Florida – have been and continue to be deterred from exercising their initial adjustment rights for fear of arrest,” the lawsuit said.


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