ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that Florida’s new “anti-riot” law championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis as a way to quell violent protests is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.
The decision Thursday by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee found the recently enacted law “vague and overbroad” and amounted to an assault on First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly as well as due process protections.
According to the law, people who are engaged in a peaceful protest can face criminal charges if they are in the same area where a demonstration is turning violent.
The lawsuit was filed by the NAACP Florida conference, Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward and other groups who argued the law is intended to halt protests by Black people and other minorities.
The measure was passed earlier this year and signed into law in April by the governor. It was a reaction to demonstrations around the country following last year’s killing by Minneapolis police of George Floyd, a Black man, that stirred passions nationwide under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement.
DeSantis can appeal the ruling.