TALLAHASSEE, FL -- The full Senate today voted to pass House Bill 1 (HB 1), Governor DeSantis’ anti-protest bill. HB1 is designed to chill and criminalize Floridians for exercising their First Amendment right to protest. By redefining “rioting,” the bill grants police officers broad discretion in deciding who could be arrested and charged with a third-degree felony at a protest and fails to provide protection for people who have not engaged in any disorderly and violent conduct. In Florida, a felony charge strips people of their voting rights.
This bill would also hinder local governments from determining how to allocate law enforcement resources to address critical needs in their local communities. It allows the Governor, with the Cabinet, to usurp control of a city budget and amend it to their liking at the appeal of any county commissioner or state attorney, regardless of whether local elected officials approve of changes made in the budget. It would also shield violent counter-protesters from civil liability for killing a peaceful protester or demonstrator with their vehicle, and make pulling down a Confederate flag a punishable offense for up to 15 years in prison.
The bill was initially proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in September 2020 following the wave of protests demanding racial justice. He declared the bill his legislative priority despite the fact that 95 percent of protests in Florida were peaceful and required no police intervention at all.
Micah Kubic, executive director, ACLU of Florida responded to today’s vote saying:
“HB 1 is racist, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic, plain and simple. The bill was purposely designed to embolden the disparate police treatment we have seen over and over again directed towards Black and brown people who are exercising their constitutional right to protest. It was introduced as a political stunt after a year of historic protest, in which millions of Americans joined together to call for an end to the disparate killings of Black people at the hands of police. It is no coincidence that these bills were introduced by politicians who harshly criticized these calls for racial justice and police accountability.
“It is clear that Gov. DeSantis and certain legislative members are aiming to shut down political speech they disagree with in a direct attack on the First Amendment and at the cost of Black and Brown people. This bill is a disgrace to our state.”