Florida Governor Signs Law That Punishes Protesters For Protesting, Denies Them Bail
from the bunch-of-assholes-being-protected-by-an-even-bigger-asshole dept
Even though Florida didn’t see many of the anti-police violence protests that spread across the nation in the wake of the George Floyd killing, its legislature and its governor have apparently decided protesters have it too easy. Governor Ron DeSantis feels the best approach to handling people fed up with police brutality and their lack of accountability is to throw more protesters (and rioters) in jail more often, and for longer.
The law defines “riot” in an absurdly overbroad way, if just three people “meet together to commit a breach of the peace,” triggering all kinds of enhanced penalties for those involved. If nine people are involved and traffic is blocked, participants can be charged with “aggravated rioting.”
Shockingly, it would allow peaceful protesters to be charged with a crime if other people at a demonstration they attend do something violent. “Those individuals who do not engage in any violent conduct under this bill can be arrested and charged with a third-degree felony and face up to five years in prison and loss of voting rights,” said an official with ACLU Florida.
On top of that, it forbids anyone arrested under the new law from being released prior to their first court appearance, creating what appears to be an unlawful presumption of guilt that bypasses bail and bond options for those still only accused of violations.
The law [PDF] also expands protections for state monuments (even [or, perhaps, especially] the Confederate ones) and undercuts any local efforts to reduce police department budgets by moving funds to social services or other options that might allow people in mental distress to be handled by someone who isn’t armed and “reasonably” scared. If even a single local official disagrees with law enforcement budget reductions, the state can step in and veto the changes.
Considering the root of these protests lies in the lack of accountability shown by law enforcement agencies, the law’s targeting of unhappy citizens makes it clear Florida cops won’t be punished for violating rights and won’t be expected to treat residents with respect. More power has been given to law enforcement agencies — powers that can be used to easily disrupt and dismantle protests by people unhappy with the services they’re paying for.
If the goal is to exacerbate an already tense situation, Governor DeSantis has accomplished that. He — along with the state reps who voted for this bill — has made it clear he believes it’s the state’s taxpayers who are wrong. This broadly written law that criminalizes the actions of bystanders will convert riot police to goon squads, allowing them to cage as many disgruntled citizens as possible. This treatment will presumably continue until the public’s morale improves and they finally start viewing the people beating and imprisoning them as the righteous warriors cops believe they are.