WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (FNN) – Governor Ron DeSantis was at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office today to sign the HB1 (Anti-Riot) Bill into law. The bill is the result of concerns following the Black Lives Matter protests after George Floyd’s death.
HB1 – Combating Public Disorder, was drafted by the Florida House Judiciary Committee, Representative Cord Bryd (R) District 11 and Juan Fernandez-Barquin (R) District 119, along with numerous co-sponsors.
HB1 authorizes specified elected officials to file an appeal to the Administration Commission if the governing body of a municipality makes a specified reduction to the operating budget of the municipal law enforcement agency; providing that a municipality has a duty to allow the municipal law enforcement agency to respond to a riot or unlawful assembly in a specified manner based on specified circumstnces; reclassifying the penalty for an assault committed in furtherance of a riot or an aggravated riot; prohibiting cyber intimidation by publication; prohibiting a person from willfully participating in a specified violent public disturbance resulting in a specified damage or injury; creating an affirmative defense to a civil action where the plaintiff participated in a riot, etc.
Democrats quickly raised concerns about the new law. According to WFTV Channel 9, democrats worry over who during a protest would determine if it is a riot. The parts of the law that they are most concerned with, however, are the parts that grant immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking the road, preventing people arrested for rioting or other offenses committed during a riot from posting bail until after their first appearance in court, and imposing a mandatory six-month sentence for battering a police officer during a riot.
Democrats worry that law enforcement won’t always be able to tell the difference between a protest and a riot.
Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried spoke out against the law, calling it illegal. She said it will silence speech and called on companies like Carnival Cruise Lines and Amazon to stand against the bill.
Governer DeSantis said just before signing the bill into law that it was the “strongest piece of anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement legislation in the country.”