From the Miami Herald:
BY ANA CEBALLOS AND MARY ELLEN KLAS HERALD/TIMES TALLAHASSEE BUREAU
APRIL 15, 2021 08:47 PM, UPDATED 11 HOURS 48 MINUTES AGO
The Florida House passed the anti-rioting bill HB 1, a broad anti-rioting legislation that aims to crack down on violent protests. BY DANIEL A. VARELA
In what marked one of the most emotional moments of Florida’s 2021 legislative session, Senate Democrats on Thursday called on major Republican political donors to pressure Gov. Ron DeSantis to stop “anti-mob” legislation they deem racist, unconstitutional and partisan.
“Don’t sit on the sidelines, do something. Take a position,” Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, said in a call to grocery store chains, theme parks and utility companies, many of whom are big contributors to Florida Republicans. Many of them also contribute to Democrats.
The call to action came after nearly three hours of emotional and heated debate on the Senate floor that culminated with the Republican-led chamber passing the bill on a 23-17 vote. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg was the only Republican to vote against it.
After the vote, several members of the Senate Democratic caucus held a press conference wearing black T-shirts over their dress shirts and ties and under their suit coats. Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer of Lighthouse Point said it was meant to signify their “mourning of the death of the First Amendment.” …
Among other things, the bill would allow people to sue local governments for damages that arise from a riot or unlawful assembly. It would also create new crimes including “mob intimidation” and “inciting a riot,” and any person who tears down a memorial dedicated to a historical person or event would face a second-degree felony that could be punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
… DeSantis pitched the idea at a press conference in Polk County in the heat of the 2020 election as he worked to deliver Florida to former President Donald Trump. He says it will combat “rioting and looting.”
“Every single person running for office in the state of Florida this year, whether you’re running for the House, whether you’re running for the Senate, you have an obligation to let the voters know where you stand on this bill,” DeSantis said at the time. “Are you going to stand with law and order and safe communities, or are you going to stand with the mob?” …
Senate Democrats are now trying to fight the proposal in the same way, by calling on “the business community,” including some of DeSantis’ donors, to take a stand on his proposal.
“If he doesn’t heed to the cries of the business community … well, then the next step is taking it to the great equalizer, the court system,” Farmer said. “Because this bill is clearly and blatantly unconstitutional, that it will eventually be struck down — if not by this Supreme Court, by the United States Supreme Court.”
… The Black Caucus said it is asking businesses to honor their promise made last summer, when corporations spoke out in support of Black Lives Matter after Floyd’s death.
“Now, when Black and Brown communities are being threatened with laws that would disproportionately affect them, the silence from those businesses is a tacit endorsement of the disenfranchisement of those communities,” the legislators warned.
Throughout the lawmaking process, hundreds of advocates and Democrats in the Florida Legislature have said the bill will have a “chilling effect” on peaceful protests and disproportionately impact minorities, while Republicans have said the bill is about “law and order.”
Farmer said that because of the pandemic protocols, the number of people who came to Tallahassee to protest the bill was muted, leaving a false sense of security for the Republican leaders who were behind it.
“This building is essentially closed to the public,’‘ Farmer said. “If this had been last year, the committee rooms and legislative rotunda “would have been full of people protesting and calling out the hypocrisy.”
… Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said the bill was “vindictive” and crafted in response to police brutality protests. Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, said the bill was about “silencing dissent.” Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, said it was a “partisan attempt to restrict the ability to protest.”
“You don’t want us on the streets. You don’t want us to kneel in games. You don’t want us to shut down the streets,” Jones said. “Our response to injustice is to protest, but your response is to criminalize it when the recourse for us is to turn to the streets to make our voices heard in this unjust system.”
Republicans, on the other hand, argue the bill is about “law and order.”
“Unfortunately, what we didn’t hear a lot about today is the victims of the violence, the businesses, the jobs and the livelihoods that were lost because of the riots,” said Sen. Danny Burgess, the Republican sponsor of the bill. “That’s what the bill is about. It’s not about peaceful protest. It’s about law and order.”
… “Hopefully it does what we hope it does and that is to stop the violence, the killings, the unintended deaths that happened from protests. The fires, all of that,” Stargel said. “And if it doesn’t, we’ll be back here year after year working on that.”
The racial justice protests in Florida since Floyd’s death have been mostly peaceful …
DO YOU KNOW THEM? The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is asking for help identifying approximately 200 looters who broke into a Tampa Walmart and stole more than $100,000 worth of merchandise. DETAILS: https://t.co/p0nEI0LwPb pic.twitter.com/lxKFhDTodM— FOX 13 Tampa Bay (@FOX13News) June 11, 2020