TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Florida's controversial "anti-riot bill" into law on Monday, April 19.
What You Need To Know
- Florida's so-called "anti-riot bill" passed from the Legislature to the governor's desk Friday
- The bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Randy Fine, said national unrest in the wake of George Floyd's death was the impetus for the bill
- Opponents of the bill say its provisions amount to a violation of their First Amendment rights
- Related: Florida Senate passes controversial anti-riot bill, sending it to DeSantis' desk
The governor held a press conference of the signing in Polk County. Several Florida sheriff deputies were in attendance, including Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Rep. Randy Fine, a co-sponsor of the HB. 1 bill, said unrest following the death of George Floyd across the nation was the impetus of the bill.
“We said, 'Look if you want to protest anything, please go ahead and do it, but we are not going put up with looting, we are not going to put up with riots,” he said.
The bill would create increased penalties for those who target law enforcement and participate in violent or disorderly assemblies. There are also penalties for obstructing highways and roadways.
Fine said the bill would allow permitted protests on streets, but they would not be able to block areas like a highway.
“Blocking traffic intentionally is a violent act and puts people lives at risk," he said.
Central Florida activist Lawanda Gelzer says there’s no need for the bill.
“This is a waste of taxpayer money," she said. "We are in a pandemic and we have situations with the vaccine, all kinds of inequalities, and this is what you do with your time."
Gelzer has organized and participated in a number of events across Central Florida, including Black Lives Matter protests following the death of Floyd. She said she fights for what she believes in: standing up against police brutal and equality.
“I don't just march to march, I march to bring attention to a situation," she said. "Then I force on the polices.”
After reading the “anti-riot” bill, Gelzer believes it impacts First Amendment rights.
“The bill itself its unjust, the bill itself is to intimidate make people afraid to speak up," she said. "And what you are trying to do is silence those that have a limited voice.”
During the press conference, DeSantis expressed that the bill is meant to deter violent protests and prevent things happening in Florida like what happened in Seattle where blocks were taken over by protesters in what they called the "Autonomous Zone."
"If you riot, if you loot, if you harm others, particularly if you harm a law enforcement officer during one of these violent assemblies, you're going to jail, we're going to hold you accountable," said DeSantis.
To watch the full press conference, click here.