Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a new anti-riot bill into law on Monday while surrounded by different state law enforcement agencies in the aftermath of widespread unrest last year and potential riots this year stemming from the Derek Chauvin trial verdict.
"If you look at the breadth of this particular piece of legislation, it is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country," DeSantis said at the press conference. "There’s just nothing even close."
House Bill 1, known as the "Combating Public Disorder Act," increases "penalties for existing crimes committed during a violent assembly, and protects the communities’ law enforcement officers, and victims of these types of acts," DeSantis' office said in a press release.
"In Florida, we are taking an unapologetic stand for the rule of law and public safety. We are holding those who incite violence in our communities accountable, supporting our law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to keep us safe and protecting Floridians from the chaos of mob violence," DeSantis said. "We’re also putting an end to the bullying and intimidation tactics of the radical left by criminalizing doxing and requiring restitution for damaging memorials and monuments by rioters."
HB 1 protects Floridians against attempts by local govts to defund law enforcement, provides the means to hold local govt. accountable for failing to protect people & property from rioting, & enacts strong penalties against those engaged in rioting, looting & violent assemblies. pic.twitter.com/cSfH1vwc0W— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 19, 2021
Critics of the new law say it will be abused by law enforcement to crack down on peaceful protests.
"The problem with this bill is that the language is so overbroad and vague ... that it captures anybody who is peacefully protesting at a protest that turns violent through no fault of their own," Kara Gross, the legislative director at ACLU Florida told the South Flordia Sun Sentinal. "Those individuals who do not engage in any violent conduct under this bill can be arrested and charged with a third-degree felony and face up to five years in prison and loss of voting rights. The whole point of this is to instill fear in Floridians."
Responding to critics of the law, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said police are able to tell difference between a riot and a protest.
Polk County, Florida Sheriff Grady Judd shows two photos of a “peaceful protest” and a “riot”:— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) April 19, 2021
“We can tell the difference and I’ll guarantee you that you’ll be able to tell the difference if you come here and riot.”pic.twitter.com/jRl9t51ppL
Watch the full press conference here:
WATCH LIVE: Press Conference in Polk Countyhttps://t.co/S3F8ns28qc— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 19, 2021