Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced he will propose new legislation Monday that
would create additional felonies to punish protesters who turn violent and would create severe penalties for cities that elect to defund or disband their police departments.
Gov. DeSantis said his proposed legislation will impose felony-level penalties on anyone who damages property, causes injury or destroys public property during a "protest."
“Recently in our country we have seen attacks on law enforcement, we’ve seen disorder and tumult in many cities,” DeSantis said according to reporting by WSNV Miami.
It should surprise no one that Democratic leaders criticized the measures as a ploy to help President Donald Trump’s re-election bid. Florida’s 29 electoral votes are a key to Trump’s re-election and polls show a tight race with former Vice President Joe Biden.
“The governor is attaching himself to Donald Trump’s propaganda and manufacturing a non-existent law and order crisis in Florida,” said Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson. “It’s political fearmongering to bolster a president’s re-election bid.”
A Tampa activist also questioned the governor’s motives.
“The right to peaceably assemble is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. This is an attempt to chill legitimate dissent and somehow equate protests against police killing Black people with criminal activity despite the clear evidence that the protests occurring in Florida are overwhelmingly peaceful,” said Kelly Benjamin, co-founder of Tampa for Justice.
DeSantis said he supports the right to hold peaceful protests.
Under the proposal, felony charges could be filed against: anyone participating in an assembly that results in property damage or injury; anyone who obstructs traffic during an unauthorized protest; anyone who topples a monument or destroys public property during a violent protest.
It would also be a misdemeanor to harass people at places like restaurants during a disorderly protest.
“You see these videos of these innocent people eating dinner and you have these crazed lunatics just screaming at them and intimidating them,” DeSantis said. “You’re not going to do that in the state of Florida.”
He is also proposing a mandatory minimum six months in jail for anyone who strikes a law enforcement officer during a protest.
People arrested during a violent protest would be held without bail until at least their first court appearance. He pointed to the ongoing protests in Portland, which he said involved the same people getting arrested and released.
“They get their mugshot taken and then they get released, and it’s like a carousel. On and on it goes. Now that’s not going to happen here in Florida,” DeSantis said.
The proposed legislation, called the “Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act,” would implement “clear and predictable penalties” for violent protests and create new criminal offenses. It categorizes such protests as tearing down monuments, blocking traffic, and funding violent assemblies as felonies.
The bill would also slash aid and state grants to local governments who seek to cut police budgets. “We’re not going to permit local municipalities to ‘defund the police,’ or Florida will defund you,” the Governor emphasized according to reporting by Jordan Kirkland of The Capitolist.
The proposed measures, outlined by the governor, Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson and House Speaker-Designate Chris Sprowls at today’s press conference in Polk County, will be an important assignment for Republicans to tackle during the 2020 Legislative Session.
“Peaceful protesting is a constitutional right, but looting and disorderly rioting are not,” said Simpson. “We will continue to stand with our brave law enforcement officers as they protect and serve. This bill is a way to ensure that all Floridians can live in a safe and secure environment. I commend Governor DeSantis for his commitment to public safety.”
According to Jordan Kirkland’s reporting, provisions of the New Criminal Offenses to Combat Rioting, Looting and Violence include:
A. Prohibition on Violent or Disorderly Assemblies: 3rd degree felony when 7 or more persons are involved in an assembly and cause damage to property or injury to other persons.
B. Prohibition on Obstructing Roadways: 3rd degree felony to obstruct traffic during an unpermitted protest, demonstration or violent or disorderly assembly; driver is NOT liable for injury or death caused if fleeing for safety from a mob.
C. Prohibition on Destroying or Toppling Monuments: 2nd degree felony to destroy public property during a violent or disorderly assembly.
D. Prohibition on Harassment in Public Accommodations: 1st degree misdemeanor for a participant in a violent or disorderly assembly to harass or intimidate a person at a public accommodation, such as a restaurant.
E. RICO Liability: RICO liability attaches to anyone who organizes or funds a violent or disorderly assembly.
A. Mandatory Minimum Jail Sentence: Striking a law enforcement officer (including with a projectile) during a violent or disorderly assembly = 6 months mandatory minimum jail sentence.
B. Offense Enhancements: Offense and/or sentence enhancements for: (1) throwing an object during a violent or disorderly assembly that strikes a civilian or law enforcement officer; (2) assault/battery of a law enforcement officer during a violent or disorderly assembly; and (3) participation in a violent or disorderly assembly by an individual from another state.
Citizen and Taxpayer Protection Measures
No “Defund the Police” Permitted: Prohibits state grants or aid to any local government that slashes the budget for law enforcement services.
Victim Compensation: Waives sovereign immunity to allow a victim of a crime related to a violent or disorderly assembly to sue local government for damages where the local government is grossly negligent in protecting persons and property.
Government Employment/Benefits: Terminates state benefits and makes anyone ineligible for employment by state/local government if convicted of participating in a violent or disorderly assembly.
Bail: No bond or bail until first appearance in court if charged with a crime related to participating in a violent or disorderly assembly; rebuttable presumption against bond or bail after first appearance.
We urge CHQ readers and friends to contact their Governor and state legislators to demand they introduce and pass similar legislation.
Gov. Ron DeSantis
Black Lives Matter
Combating Violence Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act