JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states many rights for Americans. Among them are the freedom of speech, the press and right of the people peaceably to assemble.
That right is also granted among states, but a group of people say that right is being threatened by a new bill called the “anti-mob” legislation.
Drafted by Gov. Ron DeSantis, he said it’s a good thing because it is aimed at police brutality. Critics said it would allow bystanders to shoot and kill looters.
“We have the right to protest, we have the right to say how we feel about things. That should not be taken away,” said Paul Bennett, who was among the people protesting the “anti-mob” bill.
“We’re here to make clear that this proposed legislation is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Ben Frazier, of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville. “We think it is an attempt on the governor to strict and materialize the most basic right in the Constitution -- the First Amendment right: to assemble and protest. We think it is despicable the governor would bring this to the table.”
Others disagree, saying that the proposed law would deter people from committing crimes during a protest or those attempting to incite a riot.
This year, there were examples of peaceful protests turned violent, and some agree that the proposed law would help reduce violence.
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.
In a previous interview, Eric Friday, a constitutional attorney, told News4Jax, “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,” saying there are positives and negatives in the draft legislation.
“Another is there is a law being proposed by the governor, that pretty much outlaws protesting, and that’s a constitutional right, so we’re definitely against anything that takes away from the Constitution,” said Stephen Reed Berry.
The proposed bill also would impact law enforcement budgets, saying in part, “Each Oct. 15, the county must certify to each state agency through which it receives any state funds that there has been no disproportionate funding reductions to the county’s law enforcement agencies. A county that has disproportionately reduced its law enforcement funding is not eligible to receive state funds.”