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Gov. DeSantis backs ‘anti-mob’ proposal in response to protests

News4Jax's Vic Micolucci and Scott Johnson contributed to this report.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – An “anti-mob” legislation drafted by Gov. Ron DeSantis and aimed at police brutality protests sprouting up in other cities would expand Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, a move critics say would allow bystanders to shoot and kill looters.

DeSantis announced the proposal Tuesday, continuing his pledge from September to “crack down on violent and disorderly assemblies" in response to police brutality protests in other cities that occurred after the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by Minneapolis police officers, news outlets reported.

The proposal titled “anti-mob legislation draft” would expand the list of “forcible felonies” under Florida’s self-defense law to include property crimes. It would justify the use of force against citizens who are “interrupting or impairing” business during “violent or disorderly assembly.”

“I think it’s extremely dangerous,” said Northside Coalition activist Ben Frazier. “This proposed legislation is dangerous, very dangerous. It is red meat and a dog whistle for far-right extremists, for armed vigilantes and, of course, white supremacists.”

READ: Draft legislation

The proposal would also increase criminal penalties for people involved in “disorderly assemblies,” make it a third-degree felony to block traffic during protests and provide immunity to drivers who “unintentionally" hit protesters blocking traffic.

“One of the pros is that it creates immunity and protection for people who have to escape from a violent encounter if their car is surrounded, for example,” constitutional attorney Eric Friday told News4Jax, saying there are positives and negatives in the draft legislation.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said the proposal “sounds like an invitation to incite violence.”

Gelber has been a critic of the Stand Your Ground law since it passed in 2005.

Former Miami-Dade prosecutor Aubrey Webb said the draft is vague and could lead to deaths for minor infractions.

“It dangerously gives armed private citizens power to kill as they subjectively determine what constitutes ‘criminal mischief’ that interferes with a business,” Webb said. “Someone graffiti-ing ‘Black Lives Matter’ on a wall? Urinating behind a dumpster? Blocking an entrance?”

Incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson and Sarasota Republican state Sen. Joe Gruters both said they were interested in the proposal but have not said whether they will sponsor the bill.

State Sens. Aaron Bean, a Republican, and Audrey Gibson, a Democrat, have different views on the ideas.

“We don’t want to see our cities burning like across the nation without consequences, so Gov. DeSantis is taking the first step to say let’s move forward as a state to see what we can do to keep our citizens safe,” Bean said. “I think there’s gonna be a balance, and as we go through the session, you’ll see a balance -- a balance of how do we keep our citizens safe on both sides of the aisle?”

Gibson said: “The governor continues to stoke division, which is so unfortunate at a time when our country is coming together."

When asked whether she believes there’s a safety risk in the language of the proposal, Gibson said: “We have seen how negatively and deadly things have gone awry with that particular statute."

As of Tuesday, the proposal is still a draft. No bills have been filed in either the House or Senate.

News4Jax reached out to the governor for comment but had not heard back as of Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a rally to protest the proposal is planned for 1 p.m. Nov. 21 at the Duval County Courthouse.

How Florida voters feel about gun issues & governor

Using the Associated Press VoteCast tool, News4Jax analyzed voter surveys about gun issues and the governor of Florida.

News4Jax looked at how Floridians answered questions about guns. The first survey question by AP VoteCast found 42% of Florida voters surveyed have a gun in their household.

It splits along party lines. Only 32% of Joe Biden voters have a gun in their house compared to 51% of President Donald Trump voters.

While DeSantis' push to expand Florida’s Stand Your Ground law may be a good idea with his base, it may not be as popular among the general public.

Among voters, 59% think U.S. gun laws should be more strict, 9% believe they should be less strict and 33% said they should be kept as they are.

That question is more polarizing when broken down by party. Among Biden voters, 89% want gun laws to be more strict. Compare that with Trump voters, only 31% said they should be more strict.

As far as whether this push helps DeSantis, he’s above water right now as far as approval -- 48% of voters have a very or somewhat approving view of him while 45% have a very or somewhat unfavorable view of the governor.