JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Ben Frazier is en route to Geneva Saturday, where he’s expected to address the United Nations with a message that is critical of the DeSantis Administration and Republican-dominated Florida legislature.
Frazier plans to speak before the Committee to Eradicate Racial Discrimination (CERD) on Tuesday. The primary target of his remarks will be HB-1, also called the “anti-riot” bill, which was passed in Florida following the nationwide demonstrations after George Floyd’s death.
Ben Frazier is the founder of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville and has been one of the most vocal activists against several recent laws passed in Florida, including one dealing with protests.
News4JAX caught up with Frazier before his flight.
“What we are saying is this governor and his administration are in violation of international law as it related to the United States commitment to appeal and abolish and not to perpetuate racial discrimination. We’re saying he’s doing just that,” Frazier said.
Frazier’s profile has risen in recent months as he’s publicly gone head-to-head with Gov. Ron DeSantis. Earlier this year, he was arrested at a press event for DeSantis. The trespassing charges were dropped following Frazier threatening a federal civil rights lawsuit.
In an interview with New4JAX on Thursday, Frazier mentioned several recent laws that he described as “violations of human rights.”
The UN Committee to Eliminate Racial Discrimination (CERD) comprises professionals from eighteen different countries, representing those countries and monitoring human rights violations across the globe.
The Northside Coalition is suing DeSantis over the bill. The bill raises the penalties for violence, burglary, looting and property damage, and also said that anyone taking part in a peaceful protest that turns violent is also responsible.
Frazier said the lawsuit argues that the law restricts free speech.
“What we’re saying with HB-1 is ambiguous and vague and a violation of my first amendment rights to protest and to assemble. That’s basic,” Frazier said.
Aside from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Frazier said the law also violates an international treaty ratified by the U.S. in 1994 called the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Sponsors argued that the law doesn’t technically say anything about peaceful protests and it’s only meant to punish those who act violently.
“The 2.1 thing is that this law does is it chills the right, it frightens people from wanting to go out and utilize their First Amendment rights.
What Frazier means by “chill” is that the law doesn’t outright ban protests but effectively makes people think twice before taking part in even a peaceful protest over the fear of inadvertently violating the law.
“We let thousands of people into the street because we were angry. We recognize that there was a need for police reform. The governor didn’t like that. Well, why not? It is American. It is democratic to utilize and exercise our First Amendment right. That is what we did. [DeSantis] has now engineered a law designed to stifle our First Amendment right,” Frazier said.
Frazier also said the same type of chilling effect applies to the laws passed that restrict how sexual orientation, gender identity and American history are taught in schools.
In Geneva, Frazier also plans to broaden his remarks beyond HB-1 to highlight other issues like DeSantis’ move to eliminate critical race theory instruction in the classroom and gerrymandering voting districts, which he claims harms black voters.
“We want the world to take a closer look at the state of Florida and how this governor is targeting black people in so many different ways,” Frazier said.