Brandishing a law-and-order approach to civil unrest, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida’s incoming Republican House and Senate leaders rolled out a legislative package Monday aimed at cracking down on protesters by creating a host of new crimes, as the GOP tries to keep the battleground state in President Donald Trump’s column in November.
The proposal announced by DeSantis, a staunch supporter of Trump, would create new felony crimes when property is damaged or when people are injured as a result of protests involving seven or more individuals.
The measure would also make it a crime to obstruct traffic during unpermitted protests or demonstrations and do away with bail or bond for people involved in violent protests.
And the plan would establish that drivers are not liable for injuries or deaths “caused if fleeing for safety from a mob,” according to a news release issued by the governor’s office.
“We’ve seen disorder and tumult in many cities across the country,” DeSantis, accompanied by sheriffs and police chiefs as well as incoming legislative leaders, told reporters during a news conference in Winter Haven. “I think that this has been a really, really sad chapter in American history.”
DeSantis’ proposal would also increase penalties for striking law enforcement officers during violent protests and impose harsher sentences on protesters who throw objects that hit a law enforcement officer or “civilian” and on protesters who travel to Florida from other states.
The plan released Monday came after months of protests throughout the country in response to the disparate treatment of Black people by police and amid a national reckoning about racial inequities in other areas of society.
DeSantis called his plan a “very robust package” that is stronger than proposals in other parts of the country.
“I think what it’s saying is, we’re not going to let Florida go down the road that some of these other places have gone. If you can do this and get away with it, then you’re going to have more people do it. If you do it and you know that there’s going to be a ton of bricks rain down on you, then I think that people will think twice about engaging in this type of conduct,” he said.
DeSantis’ proposed legislation will likely deepen the schism between Republicans and Democrats over what left-leaning advocates maintain are peaceful protests and conservatives brand as thuggery.
The governor’s package — backed by incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor — is a full-throated endorsement of Trump’s hard-line approach to protests, including those that resulted in destruction of government buildings and retail stores in areas such as Chicago, Portland and Seattle.
Democrats and civil-rights advocates quickly decried the governor’s plan.
“Instead of prioritizing issues impacting people’s lives, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Republican Party of Florida are fear-mongering at the expense of Floridians, and making a mockery of our legislative process to pull a political stunt for Donald Trump ahead of the 2020 election,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s top Democrat, said in a prepared statement.
DeSantis “trying to block people from using their 1st Amendment right to protest is a slap in the face to everyone fighting against injustice, especially Black people. It’s wrong and it’s unconstitutional,” state Rep. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat who is running for the state Senate, tweeted Monday afternoon.
DeSantis’ proposal would also punish local governments by prohibiting state grants or aid to cities or counties that cut law-enforcement budgets. The governor said Monday he did not have an estimate of how much the package would cost.
Critics of the plan raised questions about its constitutionality and accused the governor of trying to undermine criminal justice reforms.
“Gov. DeSantis’ proposal is undemocratic and hostile to Americans’ shared values. This effort has one goal: silence, criminalize, and penalize Floridians who want to see justice for Black lives lost to racialized violence and brutality at the hands of law enforcement,” American Civil Liberties Union of Florida Executive Director Micah Kubic said in a prepared statement.
Monday’s announcement came days before Florida supervisors of elections begin broadly sending mail-in ballots on which the president will be at the top of the GOP ticket. In a state with a history of razor-thin elections, Florida’s 29 electoral votes are considered critical for a White House victory.
Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz, a Republican who was among the uniformed law-enforcement officials with the governor on Monday, touched on the politics of DeSantis’ announcement.
“There’s some folks coming into an election year. We need to ask those tough questions, because it’s very easy for us to sit there and say, ‘we support law enforcement,’ that we condemn these things. These men just stood in front of you and told you where they stand,” Schultz said, pointing to DeSantis, Simpson and Sprowls. “The folks that’s running, they need to tell you where they stand, and if they are not in the same like-minded position, then they don’t need to be there.”
The effort dubbed the “Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act” is the first proposal laid out by DeSantis for the 2021 legislative session, which begins in March.
The support of Simpson and Sprowls, who are slated to take over as leaders of their respective chambers following the Nov. 3 elections, could signal a fait accompli in the GOP-dominated Legislature.
Officials in communities where protests have erupted into violence have “abdicated their No. 1 responsibility,” Sprowls, a former prosecutor, said.
“We will not be culpable in the same kind of negligence in our state,” he added.
Happening now says
Sad had to make this a law.
I agree, it’s simple common sense to protect lives and property and not allow violent protest or block roadways and get away with it. What normal citizen thinks otherwise?
Judith Grasso says
Fully support our Governor in providing penalties for rioters and any “protestors” who harm other individuals physically.
Unless they turn out on your front porch to protest, or corner you demanding you “wear the Ribbon”. Then you will change your tune.
What’s sad is that people think that they can destroy other peoples property and not be held accountable for it. Just look at what happened in NY. It’s time that these criminals get more than just a slap on the wrist and told don’t do it again. Maybe with stiffer punishments for crimes they commit, they will stop and use the energy to get a job and be a productive citizen. Stop being lazy and work for what they want instead of stealing it. So of course someone had to make this a law. Now hopefully the people in charge will hold the people who commit these crimes accountable.
mr to says
One of the posters says “hands up don’t shoot”. Another version is “pants up don’t loot”.
Sad Chapter is that the Gov. does whatever Trump tells him to no matter the follow thru. Most of this will be shot down by the other side but shows how farRonnie the puppet will go. Cant wait until Hes up for Election. Another one hit wonder in the making Desantis groveling and the goid ole boy American way.
Justin Case says
So what is your solution Steve? Wait until rioters have nothing left to destroy? Peaceful protests are fine, looting is not. Nikki Fried blocked law abiding citizens from obtaining concealed carry permits, (she is against the 2nd amendment) during the height of the pandemic she told her minions not to process online applications. Why, you ask? She said online applications were not safe, due to COVID-19. Sounds like maybe she is a Bloomberg puppet.
.My solution is to Vote his useless ass out pronto
Exactly, right to peaceful protest, doesn’t mean the protesters get to take hostages, destroy property or threaten another’s right to safely, move freely in the public areas. Really changes nothing though when you think about the Virginia incident a while back where the man drove thru the crowd and ran over protesters. I mena there’s a huge difference between that guy driving thru a crowd vs the angry mob running like a pack of wild animals and damaging people’s cars as they commute somewhere/anywhere they are going to. That much will still be scrutinized and someone will still have to prove they weren’t just running over protesters because they were in the way crossing the street.
A Zweibel says
It’s about time !!! Every item in that bill is exactly what we need. Protect our police, protect us , and penalize the lawbreakers. This rioting ,looting , blocking roads is NOT protesting it is just what Sheriff Judd Said it is RIOTING!!! Thank you Governor for having the b$&@ to do it!!!!
This is pure evil. So sad to see these tyrants in office openly oppresse protected activity while promoting violence and failing to hold police accountable.
Stan Gruchawka says
Peaceful protest is “protected activity “, violence, looting, burning, rioting and breaking things is not. Thank you governor!
Deborah Coffey says
White Bronco says
I get it that people ABSOLUTELY should be heard. I get it that the massage is MASSIVELY IMPORTANT. I Also get it that, disruption isn’t a proactive approach to send such important messages, such as some facing society today. Diplomacy is a fleeting thing it seems, as we’ve numbed ourselves from the effectiveness of meaningful dialogues, and exchanged rather with shock-and-awe actions outside the benefit of our well-being as an entire group. We sheild ourselves with a screen, and say things we’d never say out loud. Such a sad affair that with all the access to communication, even within our own tight community, there is such a disparagement between the lessons, messages, needs, ideas, philanthropy, etc. It’s time people learn to articulate their message or essay, to be more proactive. Rather than reactive with cause for reaction. May I remind all, we’re stuck here together. And our common enemy might just not be us, ourselves; but an misunderstood enigma; a lengthy and strongly reviewed consideration of many factors. Let none of us pretend we aren’t ALL seeking the same exact thing. I feel we actuall are… Prosperity, happiness, care for ourselves and others, family, and a chance for opportunity. It’s time to realize that the people we are in the line with at the grocery store. Decent, caring, optimistic. Selfless. Helpful. Time to focus. Time to be alive together.
Stop the Lies says
Gee, I wonder if it would have been “peaceful” at 10:00 PM ?
Steve G says
Anyone that doesn’t support this is brain dead. Since when was rioting, looting and murder protected by the 1st Amendment. Thank you Gov DeSantis for standing up for law and order. For protecting the citizens of FL and for putting in place protective measures so FL doesn’t become like those democrat run cites that suffered from so much violence. So glad we didn’t elect the other guy that likes drugs and male prostitutes.
Reinhold Schlieper says
This law would ask law enforcement to make fine-line distinction between a peaceful protest and a disorderly assembly. Note that the mendacious occupant of the White House was unable to make that distinction soundly as he had officers brutalize protestors so that he could show an upside-down bible before a boarded-up church. Why would anyone attempt to make such decisions in law enforcement where legislation leaves such ambiguities open to interpretation? And this mindless interpretation of the “defund and reorganize” policy screams loudly for clarification. When law enforcement cannot handle a difficult situation–such as mental-health cases or domestic issues–why should one not hire people who CAN handle such issues on their terms? This is a very stupid effort to place a muzzle on open communication. Denial of bond or bail takes the decision away from judges who might be able to make better distinctions on a case by case basis. We know where we have gotten with legislators writing prescriptive sentencing for cases on a broad basis. This is such a misguided attempt to create a Trumpublican take-over.
I watched part of this speech on tv and agree with the governor, protesting is fine , looting and rioting is not. When people start burning and looting they kind of diminish the whole idea of BLM. Anyone who says its o-k to ,burn ,loot ,riot as a form of protest is nothing but a shit stirring agitator.When these protests started we watched the people gathering up on tv before the protest began and at least 75% of the people were white , I bet half of them never heard of George Floyd.These are the outside agitators brought in to cause trouble.I also think its o-k to defend yourself if rioters attack you in your vehicle.In 1992 I was on a hunting trip in canada , the night the bluejays won the world series ,a bunch of people ran out of a bar and tried to flip over our truck , my friend froze and I had to get my rifle from the back seat and once my friend realized I was going to start killing people he drove away ,pushing the rioters out of the way. In my estimation this is what should be done when rioters attack your vehicle.Same thing happened in Tampa a few years ago during the occupy movement this time I had my wife with me and I was driving,I didnt even let those assholes get a grip on my truck ,I pushed them right out of the way.Desantis didnt say one thing wrong, the bottom line is protest all you want to ,however when you cross the line between protesting and rioting all bets are off.A good example of how a protest should be was the way our BLM march went down in Palm Coast ,peaceful and the message came through.
It’s called “I’m white and I say so!” White supremacy has always used laws or created new ones when threatened. The first thing these people do is resurrect old dead civil rights leaders claiming how nonviolent they were. But these same people were and would be today called terrorist, no matter what kind of protest was going on. This is nothing but another way for a person rights to be violated under the color of law. I want to know at what point did WHITE AMERICA ever achieve anything peacefully?
CB from PC says
White America eliminated Democrat enacted segregation, White America outlawed housing and lending discrimination.
White America pushed for Affirmative Action programs in Fortune 500 Corporations and University admission programs, etc etc.
And it was done through the Legal System, not by mobs looting, burning and intimidating.
At what point will some people wake up and realize they are continuing to be duped into believing they are victims when there are so many means of being successful in America?
Ok, so happy white people made all those things take place? Your full of crap, it was the people hitting the pavement making people like you uncomfortable that pushed the changes. The next step was going to be black militants, uniting and striking back if the beginning of systematic racism didn’t start changing. All white America did was change sheets and play word games. Take your butt to South Africa and see how long you last. You’d be the victim real quick. Not even from violence. You’d be ignored, probably commit suicide and have a “Karen or Ken” meltdown because your not used to being the minority.
Here’s a little Martin Luther King for you https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCrAWfczUtI&ab_channel=JustPierre
Hey Shevrin – nothing about this is an attempt to “block people from using their first amendment right to protest.” Do you, Nikki Fried, and the ACLU support rioting, looting, arson, and attacking law enforcement officers? When did punishing criminal activity become “fear-mongering?” I applaud our governor for this pro-active approach to keep our cities, towns, businesses and livelihoods safe from the miscreants, malcontents, and criminals who everyone knows are subject to infiltrate and commandeer peaceful protests.
All that is missing is immunity for the right wing agitators that have frequently caused peaceful protest to devolve into violence.
You’ll never better yourself if you always make yourself the victim
This is exactly right.
A bunch on hateful scared people with thier heads in the sand only see fear. They dont see the oppressed on a daily basis so they dont need to face it because it doesnt effect them as much but cause a little traffic and push back at the police that have been killing unarmed citizens of all races and violates constitutional rights everyday and everyone wants to go back to whats convienient and easy for them.
Only Me says
DeSantis is not a leader but a follower, always doing what Trump tells him to do.
I am so glad to see our Governor put a plan into place to protect our people and our communities. Watching the continued violence is absolutely ridiculous.
Bill C says
This should be called the “Kyle Rittenhouse Law”. Remember him? An Illinois resident, this 17 year old drove to Kenosha, Wisconsin because he felt it was “his job” to protect the businesses there, and, surprise, he shot two people dead with the assault rifle he carried. What Rittenhouse did was take the law into his own hands. He was a teenager who confused movies and TV with real life- he was playing at being a cop. He was not a hero. He was not a cop. What he did was the opposite of law and order. He only added to the chaos. Like this teenager, DeSantis has been swept away with fantasies of power and distortions of reality. This law will be bad for democracy.
Justin Case says
You are correct, Kyle Rittenhouse is not a hero. Neither was George Floyd. He was a convicted felon, who was being arrested for another felony. No, he did not deserve to die, but he is not a hero, or a martyr.
Gary R says
@Bill C – He was a teenager who confused movies and TV with real life- he was playing at being a cop. What?
Nowhere does it say this. That is your opinion. He shot two people dead with the assault rifle he carried? AR-15-style rifles are NOT ‘assault weapons’ or ‘assault rifles,’ according to NSSF’s website. “An assault rifle is fully automatic — a machine gun. Automatic firearms have been severely restricted from civilian ownership since 1934. You failed to mention that Anthony Huber was hitting Kyle Rittenhouse over the head with his skateboard. You failed to mention Gaige Grosskreutz appears to be holding a gun. The case is still under investigation and you come up with ridiculous conclusions.
This law will be bad for democracy? Why are you against law and order and all for rioting, looting, and burning buildings? That is your democracy?
Bill C says
Oh, my mistake. I got the wrong impression because the AR 15 and Sig Sauer MCX, which are NOT ‘assault weapons’, were used in the mass murders in Marjorie Stoneman High School and the Pulse Night Club, just to name some local examples. You fail to mention that black people have been murdered without consequence and denied justice for centuries, and ‘law and order’ has been the instrument of oppression and excuse for racism for centuries.
It's about time says
Thank you Governor Desantis! It’s ridiculous we even need to make this law but clearly it’s needed. You don’t get to be violent and violate the rights of your fellow citizens, that isn’t protesting. We fully support this and will be voting for you again when the time comes!
But the pillsbury dough boy outta The Capital wants to allow students the right to party and spread C19 cuz thats what they do. Kill their fellow citizen potentially. For a party. How out of wack is this. Looking forvotes? ya think lol
Well it looks like right wing agitators working to disrupt peaceful protests with violence have been succesful. This is nothing more then a way to scare people to not show up an protest peaceful in fear of right wing extremeist starting trouble in the streets
CB from PC says
If the “protests” had adhered to the Constitution which guarantees the people the “right to peaceably assemble”, none of this would have been necessary.
When will there be reporting on Bloomberg buying the Biden vote by giving $16M so the Felons can pay off owed restitution?
When will there be reporting on Bloomberg pledging $100M to “guarantee” Biden will win in Florida?
Of course this would never be viewed as election interference by the balanced media platforms.
What do the Russian influence Crusaders have to say about this?
Florida State statue 104.061 its illegal.
CB from PC says
This seems to be true, especially as stated in item 2 of the statute. But then again, finding someone with the gumption to stop it is another. Thank you.
So its a felony to block traffic for a protest!? Oh boy everyone its actually happening. They are starting to feel the pressure and we are just getting started! Defund the police in Flagler County asap! We need much more important things than extra deputies that get drunk and drive and stalk the public with phone calls or make racial sexist slurs at the courthouse. Less overpriced police vehicles and militsry grade weapons and more community support and drug rehabs.
Stephen Smith says
The Governor and legislature would be better off working on changes to the laws that are the cause of these protests. I don’t see them speaking about the causes of these protests, or working with the other side to address the issues that have brought about these troubled times. Instead they have had nothing but a knee jerk reaction in the name of Law and Order that only perpetuate the problem. Until changes are made in society to address systematic racism, education, poverty, and health care these protests will only continue and most likely will get larger and more prevalent. As history has shown when peaceful protest fails over time, violence is the last remaining option. Remember the English government didn’t listen back in 1776 and we had a revolution, the French Aristocracy didn’t listen in 1789 and they had a revolution. I want our government to listen to the people and not a political party and avoid a new revolution here in America that could result in Violence, Authoritarianism, or worse.
Bill C – Kyle Rittenhouse is what happens when governors, mayors, and people in charge condone and turn a blind eye to lawlessness, violence, and mayhem. Thanks to these actions by governor DeSantis, law enforcement will be doing just that – ENFORCING THE LAW. I fail to see how this is a “fantasy of power and distortion of reality.”
Bill C says
That’s why I’m glad that Rittenhouse has been charged with multiple counts of first degree homicide, as well as first degree reckless endangerment for firing into a crowd. Why don’t you condemn the extreme right agitators and vigilantes as well?
This proposal is exactly what we need to deter the type of violence seen in the northern cities from happening here. As a previous poster said, you have the right to peaceably protest; burning, looting, assault, and forcing others to subscribe to your viewpoint is not “peaceful” and a direct violation of their right to freedom of speech and the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. If a crowd surrounds your car and attempts to harm you, the castle doctrine should extend to the use of the car as a weapon to defend yourself. Most reasonable people understand the difference between peaceful and violent protests. The marches here in Flagler were peaceful: no roads were blocked, no buildings were burned, and no one was beaten to a bloody pulp. Some of you either can’t or don’t want to distinguish violent from non-violent, probably in an effort to justify the violence in your own minds. The governor has made it clear that law enforcement here will not stand for violence, and neither will we the people. Go Governor Desantis!
Reinhold Schlieper says
“Some of you either can’t or don’t want to distinguish violent from non-violent, probably in an effort to justify the violence in your own minds.” Here’s the problem. Some people go beyond the reasonable to infer stuff they cannot possibly have any knowledge of. That’s precisely the problem with the DeSantis edict. It’s asking people to make distinctions that most, like this person “Outsider” here, cannot possibly know. Cops, for example, then have been known to plant evidence because they are so sure that they’re right.
Thank you governor DeSantis. I have been saying all along that we should have the right to protect ourselves.
Maybe, just maybe, if the government and police tried to maybe address the concerns of the protestors instead of doubling down with more violence, there wouldn’t BE protests to worry about. Showing up to beat up, shoot and tear gas protestors who are asking for the police to not be so damn brutal is the most counterproductive thing there is. All the police have to do to stop the protesting is say “We’re sorry, we screwed up,” and make an honest attempt to avoid unnecessary violence. How hard is that? People have been begging for this for basically as long as there have been police, but the police refuse to listen.
Even from a practical stand point, it makes the jobs of the police much easier if they can be trusted by the public to not use violence because violence only causes more violence. If you’re a real criminal and believe that there’s a significant chance that by surrendering to police that you will not survive the encounter, are you going to surrender peacefully or are you going to perhaps use lethal force in hopes of at least getting out of the encounter alive? This attitude will ultimately cost police lives that wouldn’t need to be lost.