Democrats cry ‘fascism’ as Florida Gov. DeSantis proposes making participation in ‘disorderly assemblies’ a FELONY
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has called for a harsh crackdown on violent and “disorderly” protests, proposing a bill that would bring steep penalties for rioting. Critics insist the law is a “fascist” ban on free expression.
The Republican governor introduced the new law during a Monday press conference – the Combating Violence, Disorder, and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act – which, if passed by the state legislature, would make participation in “disorderly assemblies” a third-degree felony, among other measures.
“Our right to peacefully assemble is one of our most cherished as Americans, but throughout the country we’ve seen that right being taken advantage of by professional agitators, bent on sowing disorder and causing mayhem in our cities,” DeSantis said in a statement.
I will not allow this kind of violence to occur here in Florida.
The law would mandate minimum six-month sentences for anyone found guilty of striking a police officer – “including with a projectile” – during a violent protest, and upgrade offenses such as blocking roadways, public harassment and destruction of monuments to felonies. It defines “disorderly assemblies” as “when 7 or more persons are involved in an assembly and cause damage to property or injury to other persons.”
Among its more controversial provisions, the legislation will also pull state resources from cities and counties that vote to defund their police departments, and establish legal protections for motorists if they accidentally hit somebody while escaping protesters’ wrath:
Driver is NOT liable for injury or death caused if fleeing for safety from a mob.
Though DeSantis argued the law would act as a strong deterrent against rioting and violence amid months of chaotic protests against police brutality, his Democrat detractors denounced it as a “fascist” crackdown on Americans’ right to protest and assemble. Some insisted it would empower police to declare all future demonstrations “violent” to shut them down by force.
One critic suggested the bill was merely a ploy to “distract” from the governor’s “disastrous covid response,” also observing that it proposes charges related to racketeering for protest organizers.
The American Civil Liberties Union also blasted the proposed legislation as “undemocratic,” saying its primary effect would be to “silence, criminalize, and penalize Floridians who want to see justice for Black lives lost to racialized violence and brutality at the hands of law enforcement.”
Despite the vocal opposition, the bill found support among conservatives who suggested it could serve as a “model for the nation,” or at least for other Republican governors.
One supporter even called on the governor to “make sure all the [district attorneys] in all 67 districts in Florida stand firm and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” pointing to a number of other cities around the US where local prosecutors have declined to pursue charges for protesters.
So far, over 100 people have been arrested in Orlando in connection to the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, which have gripped scores of American cities since the death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement in May. While most of those arrested have been charged with misdemeanors such as disorderly conduct, if DeSantis gets his way future rioters will face much harsher penalties.
More recent demonstrations over the police killing of Salaythis Melvin in August saw protesters blocking the roadways, which the new law would make a felony offense.
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!