Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill aimed at curbing violent protests and “combating public disorder.”
First proposed in the Florida House of Representatives in January, HB 1 passed the state’s Senate Thursday evening and was signed into law by the governor Monday morning.
Dubbed the “anti-riot bill,” the legislation includes several recommendations introduced by the governor in his Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act from last summer, WFLA-TV reported.
The bill makes it more difficult for cities and counties to cut funding for law enforcement, allowing local officials to be sued if they fail to stop a riot, and enhances penalties for participants committing criminal behavior during a riot.
The law also creates a new category of criminal behavior known as “aggravated riot,” which takes place when a riot involves more than 25 people, causes serious bodily harm or over $5,000 in property damage, blocks street-ways by force or threat of force, or “uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon,” the Tampa-based news station reported.
Sponsors of the bill argue HB 1 is needed to make a clear distinction between peaceful and criminal behavior. (RELATED: CBS, ’60 Minutes’ Continue To Defend Segment On DeSantis With Lengthy Statement, Declares The ‘Story … Speaks For Itself’)
“Not only did we do that to put the public on notice as to what constitutes a riot, but also to make it clear to both protester and law enforcement where that line in the law is drawn,” said Florida Sen. Danny Burgess.
But other state officials have criticized the bill, claiming it violates crucial First Amendment rights.
“This isn’t a game. This Governor and his Republican allies love to talk about the Constitution, while shredding it with extreme legislation like HB 1. Silencing the speech of those seeking equality is straight from the Communist regime playbook,” the Florida Agriculture Commissioner said in a statement Monday.
“The criminal aspects of this bill are already illegal. HB 1 protects no one, makes no one safer, and does nothing to make people’s lives better. It’s simply to appease the Governor’s delusion of widespread lawlessness, and it’s frightening to imagine the lengths to which he’ll go to strip away rights and freedoms for political gain.”
HB 1 went into effect immediately.