Recently State Capitols have seen a concerning push for broad anti-protest bills in response to BLM marches. According to Ally Brown writing for the Intercept, close to a fifth of state legislators are considering these types of bills. Some of these bills bar demonstrators from public benefits or government jobs, others offer legal protection the people who run over or shoot protesters. With clear laws already on the books for lawlessness and rioting, it’s obvious that the bills are Republican attempts to curb speech and silence dissent.
If a similar attack to D.C. were to happen in Tallahassee, and Ron Desantis bill had been passed, every single person at the march, including those who did not enter the building or the restricted grounds could have been charged with a crime. They could have been charged under a new crime created by the bill, with “mob intimidation” when three or more individuals act “with a common intent, to compel or induce, or attempt to compel or induce, another person by force, or threat of force, to do any act or to assume or abandon a particular viewpoint.”
The wording of Ron DeSantis’ bill is intentionally vague and broadly worded. According to Jason Blank with Haber Blank and Secretary of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers the bill is “worded with vague terms and descriptions. It is stunning to me that this represented as something that could pass anyone’s muster”
Of course, the vague wording is intentional, designed to allow police departments to decide what is considered protest and what is considered unlawful. Considering history, Police departments across the state should not be the arbiters of what is considered free speech and what is considered illegal.
According to Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida “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. This proposed bill is fundamentally hostile to American values. Protesting is, and always has been, an indispensable part of our democracy’s history. We will fight any bill that violates the First Amendment.”
You can read the original article here.