Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a controversial bill into law Monday morning (April 19), which redefines the meaning of protests and riots in Florida, according to Local 10.
“It is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country, and there’s just nothing even close,” DeSantis told reporters during a press conference in Winter Haven. HB 1, the “Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act,” was passed in the state Senate Thursday (April 15) by a vote of 23-17 along party lines.
The new law outlines new criminal offenses and heavier penalties for those arrested during riots or assembles that turn violent. Reporters also said the bill gives drivers the right to legally plow through protestors if they feel threatened.
Local governments and their actions during protests were also a subject in HB 1. DeSantis said people can sue local governments for injuries or property damage sustained from violent protests. It also penalizes these governments if they defund law enforcement agencies or order authorities to stand down during demonstrations that turn chaotic.
Critics of the bill argues that laws like these target Black Lives Matter demonstrations and other social justice protests.
“This bill is a direct response to our effective organizing, locally and across the nation to reimagine public safety and value Black lives," Francesca Menes, co-founder and Board Chair of The Black Collective, said in a statement. “House Bill 1 will disproportionately criminalize Blacks in Florida, undermine our free speech and punish local governments for responding to the calls to prioritize the needs of their communities.”
Some activists in the Sunshine State said it's a violation of their First Amendment rights. Evelyn Foxx, the president of Alachua County NAACP, told CBS 4, “we’ve had a lot of positive things change because we were able to protest."
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