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Governor DeSantis' Proposal Would Criminalize Protest and Dissent

Tallahassee, FL — Earlier today Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called for a new law, the  “combating violence, disorder and looting law enforcement act” to be passed during the 2021 general session that would put people at risk of being criminally prosecuted  who exercise their first amendment right to protest against police brutality and others actions of state government.

The Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform opposes this law and calls on Gov. DeSantis to rethink this. The law would prohibit bail until a first appearance and create a rebuttable presumption against bail thereafter, codify second and third degree felonies for some offenses, and mandate jail time for convictions at a time when Florida’s jails and prisons are already overcrowded.  SPLC Action Fund and ACLU Florida are members of this coalition.

The following is a statement from Carrie Boyd, policy director for SPLC Action Fund:

“It’s clear that the real intent of the Governor is to discourage people from exercising their first amendment right . If this law passes it would put people at risk of going to jail who did nothing wrong. We’ve already seen police abusing their power to arrest people who protest officer misconduct. This type of legislation has no place in Florida and we ask the state attorney office to not prosecute if it does become law.”

The following is a statement from Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida:

“The vast majority of protests since the death of George Floyd have been peaceful. And yet our governor and leaders in the legislature insist on threatening harsh criminal penalties and mandating jail time for nonviolent protesters exercising their First Amendment rights. Make no mistake, this is designed to instill fear in would-be protesters and silence dissent.  It is un-American and undemocratic.  Protesters ought to be protected, not arrested. Governor DeSantis should be doing everything in his power to eradicate systemic racism in our criminal legal system, instead he is escalating and inflaming tensions.