Florida governor signs controversial 'pro-law enforcement' law cracking down on riots

Lawrence Kim
April 21, 2021

Fox News Flash top headlines are here. At the bill signing Monday, DeSantis said, "If you riot, if you loot, if you harm others, particularly if you harm a law enforcement officer during one of these violent assemblies, you're going to jail". Despite Democrats and Black legislators arguing that the measure would squash First Amendment rights, and disproportionately impact people of color who are already arrested and incarcerated at higher rates than white people, DeSantis told reporters at a press conference in Winter Haven today that the bill is the "strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country". "There's just nothing even close".

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures during a news conference Sunday, April 4, 2021, at the Manatee County Emergency Management office in Palmetto, Fla. It was seen as a response to protests around the country stemming from police brutality against African Americans. Among other things, the law grants civil legal immunity to people who drive into crowds of protesters who are blocking a street. The legislation increases the charge for battery on a police officer during a riot and adds language that could force local governments to justify a reduction in law enforcement budgets. "This bill actually prevents local government from defunding law enforcement", said DeSantis.

The new law will enhance penalties for crimes committed during a riot or violent protest. "The bill, if passed and signed into law, will impose costs to the taxpayer and to those arrested that far exceed the possible benefits of the increased sanctions", said Dr. Rick Harper, an economist and former director of the University of West Florida Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development, who conducted the study.

Civil rights, social justice groups, and Democrats say it is an unconstitutional attack on free speech that would make it easier for law enforcement to charge those involved in a protest.

"We respect the right of people to peaceably assemble and make their views known on issues of public policy, but rioting, violence and destruction of property can not and will not be tolerated in Florida", Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls said.

But the Capitol riots weren't mentioned as the bill was signed by DeSantis, who criticized the Minnesota attorney general at the same time closing arguments were taking place in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, the Black man who died after Chauvin put a knee on his neck for nearly 10 minutes.

He also noted that the governor made mention of the Chauvin trial with the expectation that there could be protests if Chauvin is acquitted.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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