TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Protests by anti-maskers at the home of a school board member and at the house where the parents of murder victim Gabby Petito’s boyfriend lived were cited before a Florida Senate committee unanimous approved a bill Monday to make such disturbances illegal.
The bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee would make protesting outside a residence a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Republican Sen. Keith Perry cited Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins as an example of someone who was harassed at her home by protesters.
“The protesters used vile language, argued with her neighbors and even coughed in her face," Perry said. “This is one example of many.”
Perry said people deserve the right of privacy, safety and peace while in their homes.
Orange County sheriff's Lt. Mike Crabb spoke in favor of the bill, citing days of protests outside the home of Brian Laundrie's parents. At the time, Laundrie was missing and suspected of killing Petito while on a cross-country trip. Authorities later found his body and a note confessing to the killing.
“Brian Laundrie, the murderer from southwest Florida, had days and days of protests at ... his parents' house. He's not an elected official, his parents weren't elected officials either, but that wasn't right either."
Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley said protests at public places or at an elected official's office is one thing, but people's homes and families should be off limits — elected official or not.
“Is there nothing sacred?” he said. "This thing of personally attacking people and their families to terrorize them, I just don't want that happening to anyone."
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ communications office didn’t immediately respond to an email asking if he supports the bill.