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Florida ‘Anti-Rioting’ Law Will Make It Much Easier to Run Over Protesters With Cars

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the law, which includes civil immunity for people who drive their cars into crowds of protesters.

By Tess Owen
April 19, 2021, 12:17pm

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference on March 22, 2021.

As of Monday in Florida, a gathering of three or more people can be labeled a “riot”—and if they’re blocking the road and you feel frightened, it’s generally OK to run them over with a car. Historic monuments, however—Confederate and otherwise—receive special protection under the law.

These are just some of the stipulations created by Florida’s new controversial anti-protest bill, which Gov. Ron DeSantis, flanked by law enforcement officers at the Polk County Sheriff's Office, signed into law on Monday.

“It’s the strongest anti-rioting pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country. There’s nothing even close,” DeSantis said at a press conference. “We’re not going to end up like Portland.”

The “Combatting Public Disorder Bill,” or HB1, is the latest attempt to crack down on First Amendment activity in the wake of the nationwide protest movement that was triggered by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Florida’s bill, as with those introduced in 45 states this year, has been widely criticized by civil liberties groups who fear that the law will be used disproportionately to criminalize Black-led protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Daunte Wright Protesters Are Facing Militarized Cops

Floyd’s death also sparked a conversation about the limitations of police reform, and galvanized the “Defund the Police” movement.

DeSantis made shutting that conversation down a centerpiece of his legislative agenda.

The bill intends to prevent local governments from taking steps to defund law enforcement by making them liable for any damage that occurs during a protest.

“Obviously in the state of Florida, we’re not going to do that under my leadership, but if the local government were to do that, that would be catastrophic and have terrible consequences for their citizens, and so this bill actually prevents local governments from defunding law enforcement,” DeSantis said.

He added that local officials could also be held liable if damage occurred after they gave “stand down” orders to police. “That’s a dereliction of duty,” DeSantis said.

Florida’s new law also creates civil immunity for people who drive into crowds of protesters, meaning they won’t be sued for damages if people get hurt or killed if they claim self-defense (but they could still face criminal charges). Democrats asked their GOP colleagues whether the neo-Nazi who drove into a crowd of protesters during the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville could have claimed immunity or self-defense. “That person rammed a vehicle into those people to hurt them,” GOP state Sen. Danny Burgess responded, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “He wasn’t defending himself.”

This comes after an alarming surge of vehicle-ramming attacks against protesters across the country. Between May and October 2020, there were over 100 incidents of drivers going into crowds of protesters—about half of which were confirmed to be intentional, according to research by Ari Weil, a terrorism researcher at the University of Chicago's Chicago Project on Security and Threats.

At least eight of those incidents took place in Florida. For example, a man drove his car into a small group of protesters near downtown Gainesville and pointed a gun at them last May. In a separate incident in Tallahassee, a man accelerated his pick-up truck into a group of protesters.

“We also have penalties for people who commandeer highways,” said DeSantis. “You’re driving home from work and all the sudden you have people out there shutting down a highway. There needs to be swift penalties, that just cannot be something that can happen.”

At least five other states, including Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Washington are considering similar bills which would extend some degree of liability to individuals who drive through protesters. Oklahoma’s bill goes further than Florida’s new law, by proposing immunity for criminal charges for people who drive into protesters.

Florida’s HB1, which received strong GOP backing and passed the Republican-led Senate on Thursday with a 23-17, also ramps up penalties against protest participants. Anyone who “willingly participated” in a “riot”—now defined as a protest involving three or more people—could be charged with a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

It also makes “mob intimidation”—defined as two or more people trying to compel someone to “assume, abandon, or maintain a particular viewpoint against his or her will”—a misdemeanor.

“People sitting outside eating outside a restaurant and you see this crazed mob circle around them and start screaming and really intimidating them,” said DeSantis. “I'm sorry that's not acceptable. I'm sorry you’re going to be held accountable, mind your own business.”

The bill also prevents people arrested for protest-related offenses from being bailed out of jail until their first court appearance.

Unsurprisingly, the bill has not been received well by Florida’s protest community—or by Democrat-leaning local governments. “For me as an organizer, I don’t want anyone to get a felony,” activist Jalessa Blackshear told the Tampa Bay Times during a protest in nearby St Petersburgh over the weekend. “I don’t want anyone to go to jail.”

“This bill is a direct effort to silence the Movement for Black Lives and the uprisings last summer following the police killing of George Floyd,” said Gainesville Commissioner Gail Johnson in a statement from Local Progress, a network of progressive-minded elected officials. “It keeps no one safe, and undercuts our liberty.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers elsewhere are also seeking extreme solutions to curb protest activity in their states.

In Minnesota, which is again the epicenter for protests against racial injustice following the death of Duante Wright, a Black man, at the hands of a white police officer, a Republican lawmaker has introduced a bill that would withhold student financial assistance from anyone who was convicted of a protest-related crime.The bill also proposes withholding other types of state-funded aid, including food stamps, rent assistance and unemployment benefits.


Telstar likes this post



And there's this:

Florida appeals court ruling gives police officers ‘Marsy’s Law’ protections

“Today’s decision was an unfortunate setback for police accountability,” a Tampa lawyer for media organizations said.

By News Service of Florida
Published Apr. 7
Updated Apr. 7

TALLAHASSEE -- Siding with a union that represents law-enforcement officers, a state appeals court on Tuesday unanimously decided that a constitutional amendment expanding victims’ rights can shield the identities of police officers who were threatened in use-of-force incidents.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal came in a lawsuit filed on behalf of two Tallahassee police officers who maintained that, as victims, they were entitled to privacy protections included in the 2018 constitutional amendment known as “Marsy’s Law.”

The lawsuit was the first major test of whether Marsy’s Law conflicts with a decades-old government-in-the-sunshine amendment that enshrined in the Florida Constitution some of the nation’s broadest public-records laws.

But in Tuesday’s 13-page decision, Judge Lori Rowe wrote that no conflict exists.

Nothing in the 2018 constitutional amendment “excludes law enforcement officers --- or other government employees --- from the protections granted crime victims,” Rowe wrote in a ruling joined by Judges Timothy Osterhaus and Robert Long.

A police officer “meets the definition of a crime victim” under Marsy’s Law “when a crime suspect threatens the officer with deadly force, placing the officer in fear for his life,” Rowe added.

“That the officer acts in self-defense to that threat does not defeat the officer’s status as a crime victim. And thus as a crime victim, such an officer has the right to keep confidential ‘information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim,’” she wrote, referring to some of the victims’ rights spelled out in the constitutional amendment.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed against the city of Tallahassee by the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represents the police officers. The union asserted that Marsy’s Law applies to the officers, identified in court as “John Doe 1” and “John Doe 2,” because they were victims in the use-of-force incidents.

In an incident that drew national attention, “John Doe 2” shot a Black transgender man last May. Because the police officer was the victim of an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the incident involving Natosha “Tony” McDade, the union said he had the right to invoke the privacy privilege provided by Marsy’s Law.

The union also alleged that the city changed its policy for shielding police officers’ identities following the death in May of George Floyd, a 46-year old Black man who died while former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for at least eight minutes. Floyd’s death sparked protests against police brutality and racial inequality throughout the country.

The city, however, denied that it changed its policy and maintained that the Tallahassee Police Department developed its own procedure without city officials’ approval.

The First Amendment Foundation, the Florida Press Association and a number of media outlets intervened in the lawsuit, arguing that allowing Marsy’s Law to apply to law enforcement officers would undercut the state’s open-records laws.

“Today’s decision was an unfortunate setback for police accountability. We respectfully disagree with the court’s reasoning and are considering our options,” Tampa lawyer Mark Caramanica, who represents the media organizations, said in a prepared statement.

The appellate court ruling reversed a decision by then-Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, who in July found that the “explicit language of Marsy’s Law was not intended to apply to law enforcement officers when acting in their official capacity.” Dodson said the case involved balancing victims’ rights with the “public’s right to hold government accountable by inspecting public records” and ordered the city to release the names of the two police officers.

The Florida Police Benevolent Association immediately appealed Dodson’s ruling and asked that it be put on hold while an appeal moved forward.

The appellate panel criticized Dodson’s decision, saying he “carved out an exemption” from Marsy’s Law “that would apply equally to all of Florida’s state and local government employees, numbering over 1 million.”

The news outlets also argued that shielding law enforcement officers’ identities would impede the media’s ability to act as a government watchdog. But the panel disagreed, saying other safeguards are in place.

The Tallahassee police officers “had a right to seek confidential treatment for public records that could be used to locate or harass them,” the ruling said.

“This does not mean that the public cannot hold law enforcement officers accountable for any misconduct. Maintaining confidential information about a law enforcement officer who is a crime victim would not halt an internal affairs investigation nor impede any grand jury proceedings. Nor would it prevent a state attorney from reviewing the facts and considering whether the officer was a victim,” Rowe wrote.

The panel acknowledged the “breadth and scope” of Florida’s Sunshine Law.

“But however compelling the public policy considerations may be in favoring broad public records disclosure and the ability of the public to access records of the machinery of government, it is not the province of the judiciary to read into the language of the constitutional text anything not included or to limit the text in a manner not supported by its plain language,” Rowe wrote.

The legal wrangling over Marsy’s Law has created division even within the law enforcement community.

“I don’t believe that it’s appropriate for law enforcement officers in the course and scope of their employment, acting under color of law, to have their names and their personal information withheld. I don’t think that was the intent,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who is a lawyer, told The News Service of Florida last year. “I don’t think it’s the right thing.”

Dara Kam, News Service of Florida


Telstar likes this post


Vote for White Cracker, Jim Crow Governors,

Expect White Cracker, Jim Crow, laws.

Floridatexan and zsomething like this post


Word is that there's a loophole in the law that allows patriots to drive their cars into bloody, racist, monkey boy politicians and flattening them like used condoms. Then they might proceed to running over his head a few times until it cracks like a rotten egg, because he is a rotten egg. That's the word, jus' sayin'. I'm sure there must be a cartoon or photo shop of that event somewhere, oh well.

Floridatexan and zsomething like this post


There's no need to riot. I think the Beatles put it best when they did that song All You Need Is Boycotts... Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Seaworld, Buach Gardens and whatever other Florida hot spot you can think of. Write, call or text that unless these places denounce Racist Ron and his pet pig Grady you will spread the word to boycott each and every one of these places. I hear the boycott call has already gone viral on social media. BTW do you think Racist Ron and Grady the Pig defeated their own purpose by alerting people about how dangerous it is these days to visit Florida? As if Racist Ron's dumber than a cockroach Covid decisions didn't cause enough death in your state. After all the last thing the visitors and locals want to think about while they enjoy the sun and fun on those fine fancy Florida beaches is that someone triggered by these two morons will fire a bullet into their heads and spatter their brains and blood all over those fine Florida Beaches. Just a thought.

Gee I hope the waiters don't decide to pour rat poison in the soup.

zsomething likes this post


If I'm rolling coal and I run over a BLM protester and lose control and topple a Confederate statue, will I face the long arm of the law?

Asking for a friend.

Floridatexan, Telstar and zsomething like this post


We genuine American citizens who believe in equality, justice and freedom for all are very, very fortunate to have both Gov. De Santis and Our Orange Baboon continually prodding their insane, inane followers into acts which will leave them open to serious Covid 19 infestations -- and hopefully a high number of fatalities. By the way, just what are the "values and traditions" of Anglo Saxons? Is this like leaving your elderly grandfather on an ice floe? Or, lynching brown or black people after praying to Jesus?

Floridatexan, Telstar, RealLindaL and zsomething like this post


You can't be that clueless as to the contributions of Anglo Saxons to civilization and humankind.

Nice to see you back tho.


Florida ‘Anti-Rioting’ Law Will Make It Much Easier to Run Over Protesters With Cars Source14

Floridatexan and zsomething like this post


PkrBum wrote:You can't be that clueless as to the contributions of Anglo Saxons to civilization and humankind.

“I had no idea there were so many syllables in the word 'white’.”

Floridatexan, Telstar and zsomething like this post


Florida ‘Anti-Rioting’ Law Will Make It Much Easier to Run Over Protesters With Cars C87f6ccf-205b-4afb-b670-39b74f2ac49d-2021.04.20-fla-desantis-riot-bill

Telstar likes this post

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