On Thursday (April 15), the Florida Senate passed a controversial “anti-riot” bill that was championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis following the Black Lives Matter protests last summer.
Under the bill, there are steeper criminal penalties for assaulting law enforcement agents while participating in a “riot.” Damage to public property including defacing monuments also carries increased penalties under the law. The law defines a riot as an unlawful assembly of three or more people who are doing “tumultuous activity.”
Local governments could face penalties if they interfere with efforts to disperse a riot and if they institute citizen-run appeal processes or reforms to reduce their local police department’s budget.
Lawmakers in the Florida House passed the bill in late March, and now it’s getting sent to DeSantis for his signature, which the GOP governor said he “looks forward” to doing.
“This legislation strikes the appropriate balance of safeguarding every Floridian’s constitutional right to peacefully assemble, while ensuring that those who hide behind peaceful protest to cause violence in our communities will be punished,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Further, this legislation ensures that no community in the state engages in defunding of their police.”
Similar legislation has been introduced in multiple states including Arizona, Mississippi, Virginia, Oklahoma, and North Dakota.
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