Protesters move down W. Kennedy Boulevard to join a larger gathering of protesters on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in front of the Fox 13 Tampa Bay news station in Tampa. George Floyd's death in Minneapolis on May 25 while in police custody has sparked global protests. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Florida’s anti-protest bill sparks criticism

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed anti-protest measure has sparked a wave of criticism.

The measure aims to crack down on violent protests, and those arrested would face harsher penalties.

Florida lawmakers convened last week and will take up HB 1 and SB 484 as a top priority.

If the bill passes, many people believe it would threaten people’s First Amendment rights and make them afraid to speak out.

Those who support it argue it will protect law enforcement and prevent public disorder.

The bill was filed on Jan. 6, the same day the Capitol riots happened in Washington. It calls for upgrading penalties for illegal actions during riots and makes it a felony to destroy any memorial in the state. It also limits a city’s ability to redirect funds from the police to social programs. Under the measure, anyone arrested during a riot would be held without bond until their first court appearance.

Dr. David Thomas, a former police officer and professor of forensic studies at Florida Gulf Coast University, fears it will do more harm than good.

“Let’s say the traffic is blocked. So now part of that legislation is that people have a right to drive through the protesters. OK, so that’s, that’s basically giving citizens an open season on other citizens. And I know the argument’s going to be with this, what law enforcement has been using, that term has been abused forever, because I was in fear for my life.”

Thomas says one of the best ways to handle change and protest isn’t through a bill, the politicians in D.C., or in Tallahassee; it comes right from police officers in your neighborhood.

“It is literally at the local book, which means that local law enforcement agencies, not the sheriff, not the chiefs, not the command staff, but officers themselves, have got to go out. It might be by order of the chief or the chair, to go out to communities and sit down and have discussions with them. So that there is a real understanding.”

People who don’t like the bill see it as a crackdown on the racial justice movement that started after George Floyd’s death, but DeSantis says the legislation isn’t about politics, but about holding people accountable for turning violent or attacking law enforcement.

Writer:WINK News
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