After a weekend in which violent protests erupted around the country over the recent deaths of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, and 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago and as the country awaits a verdict in the trial of the police officer accused of murdering George Floyd last summer, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Combating Public Disorder bill into law today.
The new law goes into effect immediately.
DeSantis called the legislation the “strongest anti-riot, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country.”
“There’s nothing even close,” he told those gathered at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Winter Haven this morning for the signing of the bill into law.
“If you riot, loot, harm others — particularly law enforcement officers — you’re going to jail,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis was joined by CFO Jimmy Patronis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Senate President Wilton Simpson, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, Senator Danny Burgess, Representative Juan Fernandez-Barquin, Sheriff Grady Judd, Sheriff Wayne Ivey, and other statewide and local law enforcement representatives as he signed the Anti-Riot Legislation into law.
Sprowls said, “Nothing in this 66-page bill makes it a crime to be a peaceful protestor. It makes it a crime to be violent. It makes it a crime to engage in lawlessness and destruction.”
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said he knew from experience “crime will rise to the level the community will tolerate.”
He said by signing this legislation into law the governor showed, “we do not tolerate crime in the state of Florida. We don’t tolerate violence. We don’t tolerate looting or any type of intimidation.
“This gives law enforcement the teeth we needed to hold those accountable who commit violence, destruction and mayhem on those here in the state of Florida. This was the mission since the beginning — to protect the citizens, cops and the constitution,” Ivey said.
The bill, also known as HB 1, was debated for eight hours in the Senate Appropriations Committee and then again for three on the senate floor before passage. Sixty-five people showed up to speak against the bill when it came before the Appropriations Committee, calling it “racist, fascist and draconian” and that it will trample on their rights to peacefully protest.
Senator Darryl Rouson (D-District 19) talked about his time as a protestor, and his concerns with the bill.
He said, “The purpose for protesting is to bring about real change, to disrupt the status quo, to bring attention and awareness to the light of equity, to the darkness of injustice, to motivate movement from stagnant discrimination, to interrupt unfairness and cause an eruption of justice. When a people feel wronged, they are inspired to protest. The people in my district are concerned … and worried about the chilling effect of this bill. Don’t tell me about what you say it means until I see it work. The devil in the details and is in the application of this bill. This is going to fall down to an application of the law, and we know that black and brown will suffer disproportionately because we’ve seen it. We know the data.”
Senate supporters of the bill continually tried to convince those in opposition, that while many of the senators had not had the same experiences as their Black colleagues, they empathized with them and none of them want the fight for racial equally or any other form of peaceful protests stifled.
Senator Shevrin Jones (D-District 35) said in a phone interview with the News Service of Florida following the Senate vote, that while he appreciated the empathy of his senate colleagues, “Their policies just don’t align with what they are saying. What we saw yesterday is a blatant disregard for what we as Black Americans have been saying for years. … They know the Black story. We come here and we put on this show for TV or for The Florida Channel or for your base to say you speak against racism, but still your policies don’t align with your lips. It’s hypocritical.”
Burgess, the Senate Bill’s sponsor said today, “It’s never easy to do what’s right. But the least we can do is to have law enforcement’s backs.”
He said that by signing the bill into law today, they were ensuring “Florida will not devolve into what we saw across the country this summer.”
A indepth article about the bill’s contents is here.