BRADENTON, Fla. – Following the violent riots at the Capitol Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis says he hopes more Florida lawmakers will support his idea for enforced penalties against protesters.
DeSantis first introduced the idea in September following months of protests spurred by the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by police officers in Minneapolis. Protesters in Florida and across the country took to the streets calling for justice and changes to law enforcement tactics.
“I 100% support people’s right to be able to get together and protest and say what’s on their mind,” the governor said. “The minute that that crosses over. I think there needs to be penalties.”
The Florida governor condemned the actions of President Donald Trump’s supporters who stormed the Capitol building Wednesday as the Senate and House were amid the electoral college session to confirm Joe Biden’s presidential win.
“It was totally unacceptable and those folks need to be held accountable, and it doesn’t matter what banner you’re flying under, the violence is wrong, the rioting and the disorder is wrong,” DeSantis said Thursday at the start of a news conference in Bradenton.
Now DeSantis’ idea has legislative backing after Republicans in the Florida House and Senate filed bills Wednesday night that would enact penalties against protesters who turn violent.
The “Combating Public Disorder” bill targets protesters who damage personal and business property or assault law enforcement. Violators could face felony battery charges or, if they commit burglary during a “riot,” would be subject to enhanced penalties, according to the legislation.
But the bill also targets people who would be marching in the streets or highways, like what happened this summer in response to the death of George Floyd.
According to the bill, “a person may not intentionally obstruct the free, convenient, and normal use of a public street, highway, or road by impeding, hindering, stifling, retarding, or restraining traffic or passage thereon, by standing or remaining on the street, highway, or road, or by endangering the safe movement of vehicles or pedestrians traveling thereon.”
Anyone violating that would be cited for a pedestrian violation, according to the bill.
Calling it the Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act, DeSantis said it would also strip state funding from cities and municipalities that move to defund their police departments.
On funding, the legislation includes language that would allow a resident to appeal any tentative budget cuts to a municipal law enforcement agency. This would then send the funding to the governor’s office for review.
DeSantis has said the bill will be a major “focal point” of the upcoming legislative session and he already believes he has the backing to get it enacted into law.