In another random act of federalism, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new bill into law Monday aimed to crack down on violent protests and riots.
“HB 1 protects Floridians against attempts by local governments to defund law enforcement, provides the means to hold local government accountable for failing to protect people and property from rioting, and enacts strong penalties against those engaged in rioting, looting and violent assemblies,” DeSantis said in a tweet.
The legislation, dubbed the “anti-riot” bill, comes amid seemingly never-ending riots across the nation over police violence.
“It is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country,” he said.
The governor started campaigning for the legislation last year amid protests following the death of George Floyd.
He signed the new bill into law with the verdict pending in the murder trial of Floyd’s accused killer, former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can tell you that case was bungled by the attorney general there in Minnesota,” DeSantis said of the trial. “They didn’t handle it properly, so there may be some people disappointed.”
Under the new law, penalties for crimes committed during a riot or violent protests will be amplified, according to NBC Miami.
The law also establishes new felonies for organizing or participating in a violent demonstration, and strips governments of civil liability protections if they interfere with law enforcement’s efforts to respond or add language to state law that could force governments to justify a reduction in law enforcement budgets.
DeSantis called efforts to defund the police “an insane theory.”
“It’s not going to be allowed to ever carry the day in the state of Florida,” he said.
Additionally, it makes the destruction or demolition of a memorial, plaque, flag, painting, structure or other historical object a second-degree felony. The crime would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Opponents of the bill, to no surprise, pulled the race card.
“Not only is this racist at its core, but it’s also a reaction to what occurred over the summer after the death of George Floyd,” Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones said.
“The signing of HB1 being signed today is a deliberate scare tactic, considering that closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin Trial started today. This was never about protecting ‘peaceful protesters,’ it has always been about silencing a group of protesters, black & brown voices,” he said in a tweet.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the new law essentially encourages police violence.
“The bill was purposely designed to embolden the disparate police treatment we have seen over and over again directed towards black and brown people who are exercising their constitutional right to protest,” said Micah Kubic, the executive director of ACLU of Florida.