While lawlessness continues to permeate in major cities across the country as a result of protests against systemic racism turning violent, Florida is setting a precedent on how to deal with rioters and looters hijacking peaceful demonstrations.
On Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis, alongside incoming GOP leaders, took a stand against violent protesters and those calling to “Defund the Police,” announcing a plan to quell bad actors who seek to harm others and punish jurisdictions who view police as part of the problem.
The proposed legislation, called the “Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act,” would implement “clear and predictable penalties” for violent protests and create new criminal offenses. It categorizes such protests as tearing down monuments, blocking traffic, and funding violent assemblies as felonies.
The bill would also slash aid and state grants to local governments who seek to cut police budgets.
“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,” said DeSantis. “I will not allow this kind of violence to occur here in Florida. The legislation announced today will not only combat rioting and looting but also protect the men and women in law enforcement that wake up every day to keep us safe. I look forward to working with the Florida Legislature next session to sign this proposal into law.”
“We’re not going to permit local municipalities to ‘defund the police,’ or Florida will defund you,” he continued.
Today I announced bold legislation that creates new criminal offenses and increases penalties for those who target law enforcement and participate in violent or disorderly assemblies. We will always stand with our men and women in uniform who keep our communities safe. pic.twitter.com/ITl5GmmrZJ
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) September 21, 2020
The proposed measure, outlined by the governor, Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson and House Speaker-Designate Chris Sprowls at today’s press conference in Polk County, will be an important assignment for Republicans to tackle during the 2021 Legislative Session.
“Peaceful protesting is a constitutional right, but looting and disorderly rioting are not,” said Simpson. “We will continue to stand with our brave law enforcement officers as they protect and serve. This bill is a way to ensure that all Floridians can live in a safe and secure environment. I commend Governor DeSantis for his commitment to public safety.”
An overview of the violent protest bill can be seen below:
- New Criminal Offenses to Combat Rioting, Looting and ViolenceA. Prohibition on Violent or Disorderly Assemblies: 3rd degree felony when 7 or more persons are involved in an assembly and cause damage to property or injury to other persons.B. Prohibition on Obstructing Roadways: 3rd degree felony to obstruct traffic during an unpermitted protest, demonstration or violent or disorderly assembly; driver is NOT liable for injury or death caused if fleeing for safety from a mob.C. Prohibition on Destroying or Toppling Monuments: 2nd degree felony to destroy public property during a violent or disorderly assembly.D. Prohibition on Harassment in Public Accommodations: 1st degree misdemeanor for a participant in a violent or disorderly assembly to harass or intimidate a person at a public accommodation, such as a restaurant.E. RICO Liability: RICO liability attaches to anyone who organizes or funds a violent or disorderly assembly.
- Increased PenaltiesA. Mandatory Minimum Jail Sentence: Striking a law enforcement officer (including with a projectile) during a violent or disorderly assembly = 6 months mandatory minimum jail sentence.B. Offense Enhancements: Offense and/or sentence enhancements for: (1) throwing an object during a violent or disorderly assembly that strikes a civilian or law enforcement officer; (2) assault/battery of a law enforcement officer during a violent or disorderly assembly; and (3) participation in a violent or disorderly assembly by an individual from another state.
- Citizen and Taxpayer Protection Measures
- No “Defund the Police” Permitted: Prohibits state grants or aid to any local government that slashes the budget for law enforcement services.
- Victim Compensation: Waives sovereign immunity to allow a victim of a crime related to a violent or disorderly assembly to sue local government for damages where the local government is grossly negligent in protecting persons and property.
- Government Employment/Benefits: Terminates state benefits and makes anyone ineligible for employment by state/local government if convicted of participating in a violent or disorderly assembly.
- Bail: No bond or bail until first appearance in court if charged with a crime related to participating in a violent or disorderly assembly; rebuttable presumption against bond or bail after first appearance.