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Florida’s republican governor Ron Desantis just signed a new law to crack down on violent protests. Although the real name of it is the “Combating Public Disorder Act,” he prefers to call it the “strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement measure in the country.” The law was originally written as a way to combat the death of George Floyd due to Minneapolis police. After this police-involved death, the idea of systematic racial injustice spread quickly throughout the country. While Florida didn’t experience a lot of effects of this, places like Minneapolis, Portland, Oregon, and etc, had to deal with many fierce protests.
` This new law mainly focuses on granting protection to police officers, and increasing the penalties for rioters that caused property damage or other violent acts when protesting. It also creates two new crimes called “mob intimidation,” and “doxing an individual;” the latter refers to releasing someone’s/some company’s personal information with the intent to harm them. When it comes to being arrested, the law calls for those committing crimes, such as battery, assault, burglary, and theft, to remain in custody until their first appearance in court. If you were to execute battery against a law enforcement officer, you would have to spend six months jail time at the minimum.
However not only does the law affect the rioters, but it also affects the officials. The bill states that victims of any protests could sue the local officials for not doing enough to control the riots. Although, the local officials can also appeal to the governor to reduce funding for the local law enforcement, echoing the “Defund the Police” movement.
As expected, most Florida democrats didn’t agree with the bill, saying that it could be used to wrongly detain and charge peaceful protestors. “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,” said Senator Shevrin Jones, “if he was concerned, he would have addressed the killing of Black men at the hands of police officers.”
Many civil rights and social injustice groups also aren’t in favor with the bill, calling it an attack on free speech. American Civil Liberties Union of Florida executive director Micah Kubic stated, “to be clear, the goal of this law is to silence dissent and create fear among Floridians who want to take to the streets to march for justice.” Along with Dream Defenders’ Nailah Summers who also emphasized how it very negatively affects minority communities, and the state lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves. “We’ll see you in court,” said Summers.
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