JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Demonstrators traveled from Jacksonville to Tallahassee on Tuesday to rally against House Bill 1, which has been dubbed “anti-riot” legislation.
Supporters of the bill say it would help crack down on violent protests, while opponents say it’s overkill and could be used to restrict people from peacefully protesting.
“We are definitely going on behalf of all of the people who want to use their amendment rights in the future,” said Christina Kittle with the Jacksonville Community Action Committee. “We want lawmakers to know that we oppose House Bill 1.”
Ben Frazier with the Northside Coalition is among those who say the bill would limit First Amendment rights.
“This proposed legislation, if enacted into law, would violate our rights to protest, to assemble and our right to free speech,” said Frazier, who added that he believes the measure is a knee-jerk reaction to the protests that happened last year.
The measure has gained the support of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who discussed the legislation during his State of the State address earlier Tuesday.
“Florida is -- and must remain -- a state dedicated to law and order,” DeSantis said. “When riots broke out across the nation last year, we saw cities ruined by violent mobs. Law enforcement was targeted and lawlessness prevailed. This was not -- and must never be -- tolerated in the state of Florida.”
The legislation would create a new offense of “mob intimidation” when three or more people act “with a common intent, to compel or induce, or attempt to compel or induce, another person by force, or threat of force, to do any act or to assume or abandon a particular viewpoint.”
The House bill and an identical Senate bill (SB 484) would also enhance penalties for defacing public monuments, make it a crime to destroy memorials and require mandatory restitution for the full cost of repair or replacement of damaged or destroyed memorials.
In addition, the proposal would make a crime of “doxing,” the posting of private information about people on social media sites, when such data is published with the intent to “threaten, intimidate, harass, incite violence … or place a person in reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm.” Also, the proposal would make it more difficult for local government officials to trim spending on law enforcement.
About a hundred people showed up Tuesday afternoon at the Florida Capitol to make known their displeasure over the legislation.