Violence is breaking out across the country and racial tensions are high in anticipation of a verdict in the trial of the police officer accused of killing George Floyd last summer.
It’s been fairly quiet in Florida so far, but if Florida Democrats have their way, it won’t be for long.
After Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Combating Violence Act or the Anti-Riot bill into law this morning (see The Capitolist’s report on the signing here), Democrats were calling on major corporations and residents to step up and speak out.
Repeated assurances from the sponsors of both the House and Senate versions of the bill and numerous other supporters were given that this bill is not an infringement on peaceful assembly, it addresses the violent acts associated with rioting,
And, even though the only place that peaceful protests were mentioned in the bill were on lines 801 and 802 of the bill was where it states, “This section does not prohibit constitutionally protected activities such as a peaceful protest,” opponents like those in the Florida Black Caucus, were not impressed. (Full explanation of the bill can be found here.)
Opponents called on corporations in Florida to “look at” what’s happening in Florida with the passing of the Anti-Riot bill and “follow Georgia.” Georgia has recently seen Major League Baseball pull its All-Star game from Atlanta and move it to Denver following legislation to reform voting laws in the state. Other corporations like Coca-Cola and Delta have also made political statements against Georgia.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only Democrat on the Governor’s Cabinet and an expected foe in the upcoming gubernatorial race, said today, “The only entities the Republicans will listen to are corporations. So, what we need right now is for corporations to use their political influence to step up and stop this. Disney, you can stop this. Publix, you can stop this.” She continued to name a litany of corporations she thought should help.
“If the Legislature won’t listen to ‘We the People,’ maybe they’ll listen to the corporations,” she said.
House Minority Co-Chair Evan Jenne corrected, “We don’t want boycotts. We want you (corporations) to use your voice.”
But Fried never made that distinction.
Beyond corporations stepping up, Democrats were calling for people to protest.
Representative Angie Nixon (D-District 14) said, “They are trying to keep us in check and make us stay in our place. I am putting out a call to action. Get mad, take it to the streets and the voting booth.”
Representative Anna Eskamani (D-Districk 47) also spoke on the signing of the Anti-Riot Bill, also known as House Bill 1 today. She called it Hate Bill 1.
She said, “Whenever Republican leadership tries to take away our right, good people across this great state will resist. We will hit the streets following Congressman John Lewis’ advice to never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Representative Michele Rayner (D-District 70) said that today, the Legislature “doubled down on white supremacy” with the signing of Hate Bill 1.
“They (who voted for HB1) will have to give an account. You cannot ignore the will of the people without consequence,” she said.
“Democracy dies in the darkness and today is a very dark day for our state,” Rainer continued. “…we will uphold the light. You (governor) thought this was play for your base, but you have awaken a giant and we will continue to be relentless in the face of justice.”
Senator Shevrin Jones (D- District 35) said the governor showed he was not “concerned about the lives of Black and Brown citizens.”
“He ignored us today and our cries from the Senate and House floors,” Jones said.
He continued, “(The governor) alluded to the protests and the demonstrations that happened with George Floyd. Not once did he call out the wihite supremists who stormed the Capitol to overthrow the government.”
Jones pointed out there were no Blacks at the governor’s press conference today.
He called for people to speak out, “Let the governor know you have just declared war on the First Amendment in the State of Florida.”