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Local groups protest Florida's new 'anti-riot' law, arguing it infringes on constitutional rights

BLM Tampa protest
Posted at 11:26 PM, Apr 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-25 10:04:32-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Just days after Governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Combating Public Disorder Act” into law, protesters and rally-goers took to the streets to stand in solidarity against it, but to also celebrate the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin.

Those who stand against the new law argue it’s taking away their first amendment rights, like freedom of speech, and the right to peaceably assemble. But those in favor say the law is necessary in order to prevent riots and violence.

“It is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country,” said Governor Ron DeSantis, during a press conference where he signed the bill into law on Monday.

Its policy Governor Ron DeSantis announced in September of last year, following a handful of violent protests across the state and nation.

He signed the bill into law on Monday, and since then, a social justice group in Orlando has sued the governor for violating constitutional rights, and people have taken to the streets in protest.

“This HB 1 law that was just signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, that is unconstitutional, it’s trying to suppress some of the freedom of speech that we have in the first amendment,” said Sasha Mincey, a protester from Orlando who attended Saturday’s BLM Tampa protest.

Governor DeSantis argues the law protects people from violence.

“If you riot, if you loot, if you harm others, particularly if you harm a law enforcement officer during one of these violent assemblies, you’re going to jail,” said Governor DeSantis.

But protesters at the Black Lives Matter Tampa "March in Solidarity" say those laws already exist, and this new one is unnecessary.

“We don’t need to legislate what already exists. This law specifically exists to criminalize peaceful protests. The forward-facing aspect of the bill says that it’s just about rioting. But we already have laws for rioting. We don’t need laws for peaceful protesters because that’s suppressing descent, that is suppressing democracy,” said Donna Davis, Co-founder and Lead Organizer for BLM Tampa.

Then at a rally in Temple Terrace, the Tampa Bay Community Action Committee celebrated the verdict of Derek Chauvin, saying they believe the charges came, in large part, due to protests pushing for justice.

“It took literally the largest protest in U.S. history, millions and millions and millions of people coming together to demand justice for George Floyd for Derek Chauvin actually to be even brought to trial,” said Elizabeth Kramer, a member of the Tampa Bay Community Action Committee.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, in a meeting earlier this week, outlined his interpretation of the new law, saying TPD will communicate with protesters, and does not hope to make any arrests.

“We as an agency are still gonna give everybody an opportunity to express their first amendment rights. I don’t see it affecting a whole lot of things,” said Chief Dugan.

You can read the full text of the law by clicking here.