DeSantis sued over new ‘anti-riot’ law


Florida Governor, Ron Desantis has been sued by a social justice group two days after the Republican signed a bill to create tougher penalties for people who participate in violent protests.

On Wednesday, Legacy Entertainment & Arts Foundation, a non-profit group filed the lawsuit  in Orlando federal court, according to court records.

It argues the new law violates First Amendment protections for free speech, Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment and 14th Amendment protections of due process.

“The breathtaking scope of the Bill includes granting civil immunity to people who drive into peaceful demonstrators if such demonstration blocks a road, prevents people accused of ‘rioting’ from bailing out of jail until after their first court appearance, increases penalties for assaulting law enforcement officers while engaging in a ‘riot,’ penalizing local governments that interfere with efforts to stop a ‘riot,’ and allows law enforcement agencies that face funding reductions to file objections,” the complaint stated.

Governor Ron DeSantis spokesman Cody McCloud said the governor’s office hasn’t yet been served in the case but will firmly defend the legal merits of the new law, which McCloud said protects businesses, supports law enforcement and ensures punishment for those who cause violence.

The  anti-riot bill that Governor Ron DeSantis signed on Monday was a response to nationwide demonstrations that occurred in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Most of the protests against racial injustice were peaceful, but some turned violent. After the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, Republicans pushing the legislation used it as an example to support the effort.

Opponents of the bill said it was a racist reaction to a problem that hasn’t occurred in Florida. They saw it as an attempt to squash the voices of groups like Black Lives Matter.

The new law enhances penalties for crimes committed during a riot or violent protest. It allows authorities to hold arrested protesters until a first court appearance and establishes new felonies for organizing or participating in a violent demonstration.

It also strips local governments of civil liability protections if they interfere with law enforcement’s efforts to respond to a violent protest and adds language to state law that could force local governments to justify a reduction in law enforcement budgets.

It also makes it a second-degree felony to destroy or demolish a memorial, plaque, flag, painting, structure or other object that commemorates historical people or events. That would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Anti-riot bill passed


On Thursday, Florida Senate approved an “anti-riot” bill championed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, sending it to him for signature into law over the objections of Democrats and civil rights groups who say the measure infringes on the fundamental First Amendment right to protest.

Moreover, the parts of the bill (HB 1 ) that most upset Democrats grant civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road; prevent people arrested for rioting or offenses committed during a riot from bailing out of jail until their first court appearance; and impose a six-month mandatory sentence for battery on a police officer during a riot.

Governor Ron DeSantis, when he unveiled the proposal, emphasized the need to prevent bail for rioters, so they aren’t able to rejoin the unrest. During an emotional debate, Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, called the bill a “mail piece for reelection for a specific base who wants it. … We have to [instead] pass legislation for all Floridians.”

Senator Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, who read the First Amendment on the Senate floor, added, “We know the governor wants this piece of legislation. We don’t have to do everything the governor wants.”

However Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, said the bill wasn’t about politics, race or peaceful protests. Instead, it was meant to prevent riots that hurt or kill people and destroy property, she said.

“This bill is about preventing violence,” said Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, sponsor of the Senate version of the measure.

Burgess and his fellow Republicans fended off 16 amendments from Democrats in a Wednesday session as they attempted to water down the bill. Burgess was questioned by Senator Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, about whether James Fields, a white supremacist who killed Heather Heyer during protests at Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, would have been granted civil immunity for her death under the bill.

Burgess noted the bill wouldn’t prevent criminal charges and the provision would only apply to people defending themselves from protesters, not those deliberately targeting them. Fields was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2019.

“That person rammed a vehicle into those people to hurt them … he wasn’t defending himself,” Burgess said. “That is in no way protected in this bill.”

The bill passed House 76-39 with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed on March 26. It will become effective immediately when DeSantis signs it, which he said Thursday he would do.

Governor Ron DeSantis began to push for an anti-riot bill in September, in response to the protests against police bias and brutality that took place throughout the country last summer, some of which turned violent, with rioting and looting. The protests were sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by Minneapolis police.

One of the officers charged in the killing, Derek Chauvin, shown in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, is currently on trial. Chauvin has a second home in Windermere.

During a conference call with reporters, Black Voters Matter co-founder and executive director Cliff Albright said the legislation is a backlash against the passion expressed by young people in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.

“And in response to that, for the state to say, we’re going to criminalize your activity. We’re going to criminalize your passion. We’re going to criminalize your protest. That’s not what democracy looks like,” Albright said.

Much of the bill addresses the reaction of protesters and rioters in the wake of the Floyd killing. The “defund the police” slogan of some protesters led to a provision of the bill requiring municipal budget plans that would cut police budgets to be approved by the state.

Cities and counties would also be civilly liable for damages caused during a riot if they don’t restrain police from quelling the disturbance.

A new crime of “mob intimidation,” defined as three or more people “acting with a common intent” forcing or threatening to force another person from taking a viewpoint against their will, is created by the bill. It is punishable as a first-degree misdemeanor, and bail is denied until the first court appearance for anyone charged with the crime.

That provision is in response to videos last summer of protestors of police violence menacing people eating at outdoor restaurants.

Memorials, statutes, and historic property, including Confederate monuments, a target of some protesters last year, would be protected under the bill since it would require restitution for repairs. The bill also increases penalties for assault, battery, burglary, and theft during a riot.

After the vote, Farmer and several other Democratic senators donned black shirts to mourn what they called the death of the First Amendment.

Anti-riot bill hit Senate floor


As political tension is building, a GOP-drove Senate board on Friday cast a ballot to send a Governor Ron DeSantis-sponsored ‘anti riot’ bill to the full Senate floor subsequent to dismissing each Democratic endeavor to limit the extent of the enactment.

Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee were unable to stop the bill, but they did manage to get support for a study that will look at the racial impact of the proposed law.

The bill (HB 1) would enhance penalties for a host of crimes committed during protests that turn violent, and opponents have argued its broad definition could lead to racial disparity if the bill ultimately becomes law.

“The people across the state of Florida are worried about the chilling effect of this bill,” said Senator Darryl Rouson, R-St. Petersburg.

“This is going to lead to a misapplication of the law, and we know Black and brown people will suffer disproportionately because we have seen it.”

In addition to that Senator Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, tried to ease those concerns by proposing language that would have required the state to collect data and study the racial and ethnic impact of the proposed law.

“I agree with you wholeheartedly that we should look at this,” Burgess told Powell.

“That’s my honest and good faith commitment because where there is disparity, where this is happening, it should be studied and it should be stopped.”

Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said Simpson will be directing the research arm of the Florida Legislature to conduct the study, but specifics have yet to be determined.

The battle about DeSantis’ main concern has driven quite a bit of the behind-the-scenes jockeying during the primary portion of the administrative meeting. With three weeks left in meeting, the strains were currently in full view during an eight-hour meeting before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Jason Pizzo, a Miami Democrat who refused to hear the bill in his committee, told Burgess he believes the bill is nothing “more than perhaps a bullet point in a 2022 or 2024 campaign mailer for somebody else.”

Pizzo, a former prosecutor, argued the bill is a problem because it is overly broad and as currently written would make arrests and convictions subjective. Burgess, however, says the legislative intent of the bill should stand up in court.

“You have much greater faith in legislative intent versus textualism,” Pizzo said. “I have a greater concern that the courts will see the text of the bill and not what we discussed here today.”

“I don’t fault you for not knowing the nuances of criminal law and their application,” Pizzo said. “But I do fault the premise that you don’t understand and appreciate what this means in the application for Black and brown teenagers.”

Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, appeared to be walking a fine line between a yes or a no while debating the bill. He shared personal anecdotes about his youth and witnessing a “racist society” first hand.

“I grew up, and I have vivid childhood memories of water fountains, restrooms, cafe entrances, buses, schools that were not integrated, not one time,” Hooper said. “I grew up in a racist society. I admit that and I don’t like it. I heard the n-word 5 million times in my youth.”

Hooper voted yes on the bill in the end, because he said he believes “something needs to be done” about the violence seen during the Jan. 6 assault of the U.S. Capitol.

“I think something needs to be done,” Hooper said. “I don’t know where the balance is, I do not.”

Another Florida man arrested in US Capitol siege

Florida man arrested in US Capitol siege

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA: According to the reports, the FBI has arrested a North Florida man for the U.S. Capitol siege.

Bradley Weeks is accused of intentionally entering or staying in a restricted building or grounds without authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, Court records released Thursday said.

Several people tipped agents about video Weeks had posted on his Facebook page regarding his participation in the Capitol insurrection, an FBI statement said. In one, he turned the camera to show his face in a meanwhile at the Capitol and described what he had done.

His arrest resulted in a number of people from Florida arrested in two weeks. Hundreds of pro-Trump supporters rushed the Capitol building with administrators inside certifying Joe Biden’s presidential win. Including one Capitol police officer, Five died during the storming of the historic building.