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Critics argue 'anti-riot' law aims to silence groups like Black Lives Matter

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Posted at 6:10 PM, Apr 19, 2021

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — On Monday in Polk County, Gov. Desantis signed HB1, or the "anti-riot" bill, into law.

“It is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The law penalizes local governments that interfere with law enforcement efforts to contain riots. It prohibits defacing monuments and other historic property. It also increases criminal penalties for assaulting law enforcement officers. And prevents people accused of rioting from bailing out of jail until after their first court appearance.

“You’re going to jail. We're going to hold you accountable and we’re not going to end up like Portland where this is a daily occurrence of these people doing this,” DeSantis said.

Members of Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc. said the law is a direct violation of the first amendment and restricts political dissent.

“This is an intimidation tactic. This is a violation of the first amendment and this is targeting Black citizens that want to protest the widespread issue of police brutality,” said Pastor Carl Soto, Vice President of Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk.

The organization is currently in Minnesota protesting in the wake of the deadly police shooting of Daunte Wright. They said within minutes of arriving to the protest they were arrested, even though they were not involved in any violence. They believe the "anti-riot" law here in Florida will only allow police officers to abuse their power.

“Us seeing this personally, first hand. I think that’s why it’s so important that we push back against this bill. Like you said they have the strongest bill right now in the nation and in Minnesota, they don’t even have those protocols, they’re just doing it willingly. So you’re basically giving them the permission to do whatever they want to, willingly and that’s really going to become a problem,” said Jarvis Washington President of Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk.

It could also come at a cost for taxpayers. A new fiscal analysis warns the legislation could cost Florida taxpayers millions of dollars.

RELATED: 'Anti-riot' bill could cost taxpayers millions, fiscal analysis warns

The report projects that 270 to 720 additional prison beds will be occupied by people jailed under the enhanced penalties, with an incarceration cost of up to $17.5 million per year to taxpayers.

Proponents of the law said justice outweighed the cost.