Florida's New Law Against Blocking Roads During Protests Already Being Ignored By Cops Policing Protests The Governor Supports
from the behold-the-discretion-being-exercised-by-law-enforcement dept
Just a few months ago, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a broadly-written anti-protest bill that, among other things, criminalized the act of participating in a protest if other protesters did illegal things. It also criminalized the blocking of traffic and roadways by protesters, something that was already illegal but now was super-illegal with enhanced punishments that made this act a felony.
This was the Florida legislature’s response to anti-police violence and Black Lives Matters protests in the state — protests that became far more frequent and intense following the killing of Minnesota resident George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Failing (perhaps deliberately) to recognize a lighter law enforcement touch was needed to regain the trust of the public, DeSantis and likeminded legislators doubled down, making the very act of protesting police violence an opportunity to be hit with felony charges.
The new law is in the news because it very much appears it won’t be enforced equitably. Miami’s Local 10 wants to know why the new law wasn’t deployed to stop Cuban solidarity protesters from blocking highways during recent demonstrations.
“All of a sudden you have people out there shutting down a highway. They start to do that, there needs to be swift penalties.”
Those were Gov. Ron DeSantis’ words back in April when he signed a controversial anti-riot bill.
“I think people understand the difference between going out and peacefully assembling, which is obviously people’s constitutional right,” DeSantis said on a day when South Floridians stood in solidarity with Cuban citizens’ protests by taking to the Palmetto Expressway and closing it down for hours.
The Associated Press also amplified questions about this apparent divergence from a law supposedly desperately needed to keep protests from shutting down cities.
Demonstrators on Tuesday in Miami, Tampa and Orlando temporarily blocked busy roads, chanting support for the Cubans who had taken to the streets in the communist nation Sunday to air grievances about poor economic conditions and other issues.
“When they protest for regime change, which aligns with the governor’s political viewpoint … you see no enforcement from law enforcement,” said Michael Sampson, who co-founded the Jacksonville Community Action Committee, one of many groups that sprung up under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The governor had no real explanation for why officers were not only not arresting people for blocking roads, but waving people through police lines so they could head up ramps to access the highways they would soon be blocking. The only comment DeSantis offered was that this protest wasn’t the kind of protest he felt needed to be shut down.
During a visit to Miami on Tuesday, DeSantis said the demonstrations in South Florida were “fundamentally different than what we saw last summer.”
The statement made by Christina Pushaw, the governor’s spokesperson, wasn’t any better.
“The legislation protects First Amendment freedoms, while ensuring that law enforcement professionals are empowered to use their discretion to maintain public safety,” Pushaw said. “The Governor has always urged all Floridians exercising their right to protest, to make their voices heard peacefully and lawfully.”
Well, ok then. I guess we’ll see what happens the next time BLM protesters take to the streets and block a few of them off. If DeSantis doesn’t want to look like he only respects the rights of people he agrees with, he’ll need to keep cops from exercising their discretion and arresting people protesting against unequal treatment by law enforcement.