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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a very undemocratic bill into law Monday that strengthens the power of law enforcement and makes it harder for residents to protest.
CNN reports that the “Combating Public Disorder Act” creates several crimes connected to protest. One is “mob intimidation” and doxxing an individual or digitally publishing someone’s private information for the purposes of harassing that individual. If a person is convicted of battery against a cop, then the law calls for them to be imprisoned for at least six months. To push back against the ‘defund the police” movement, the law allows for appeals if municipalities reduce law enforcement budgets.
It gets worse.
There is a provision in the law that allows affirmative defense for someone in a civil action who claims they were defending their property against a rioter. Florida is already a “Stand Your Ground State,” so imagine what kind of vigilantism this will create amongst the state’s white residents who are already emboldened to kill Black people.
Remember, George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin because he perceived the teenager as a threat—even though he approached Martin in his own neighborhood.
Democrats around the state expressed their opposition to the bill:
“Governor DeSantis’ actions today go to show that he’s not concerned about the lives of Black and Brown people, who so happen to be citizens of this diverse state we call home,” state Sen. Shevrin Jones said during a news conference.
“If he was concerned, he would have addressed the killing of Black men at the hands of police officers.”
That message was echoed by Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, who charged that the law “made it more dangerous for the people here in our state who want to stand up against injustice and make changes to society.”
State Rep. Bobby Dubose posited, “As a father trying to raise four young Black men in this state, HB1 terrifies me,”
“We know from a lifetime of experience who this will harm — communities of color,” Dubose added.
Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren blasted the legislation in a statement for leaving “just enough room to abuse the law and make it a crime to merely be present at a demonstration where other people do something wrong.”
The law, Warren said, “isn’t going to change anything that we’re doing in Hillsborough County,” which includes Tampa.
“We will continue to aggressively prosecute people who cause violence and destruction and aggressively defend First Amendment rights.”
Additionally, local officials can be held liable by injured parties if it can be proven they did not do enough to respond to violent protests, according to NPR. Penalties can be levied against people who block roadways and deface property.
There is nothing in the bill that protects protesters against abusive law enforcement officers, but Florida Republicans don’t care about them.