TALLAHASSEE, FL – The House today approved House Bill 1 (HB 1), Gov. DeSantis’ anti-peaceful protest bill, despite hearing opposition from various community groups and Floridians across the state. In practice, the bill would silence and criminalize Floridians who want to exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully protest.
HB1 would send people to prison for up to 15 years for pulling down a Confederate flag or other shrines to white supremacy. It would subject any person present at any gathering that became violent through no fault of their own to felony charges, potentially leading up to five years in prison and the loss of their voting rights, even if the individual did not engage in any violent and disorderly conduct, among other provisions. It would also protect violent counter-protesters from civil liability for injuring or killing a protester with their vehicle.
The ACLU of Florida also opposes the Senate companion bill, Senate Bill 484.
Micah Kubic, executive director, ACLU of Florida responded to today’s vote saying:
“It is shameful that this bill has passed in the House. It is clear certain legislators are more interested in earning political points with the governor than upholding the constitutional rights of their constituents. We’ve said it before and will state it again: This bill is not intended to increase public safety. It is not intended to address any public need. Over 95 percent of protests across the state of Florida have been peaceful.
“HB1 and its companion bill, SB484, represent a blatant attempt to silence and criminalize speech that runs counter to the political agendas of those currently in power in Florida. It is a political stunt designed by Gov. DeSantis that will further cultivate the disparate justice we’ve seen administered in Florida for years. It is a rebuke of a year of historic expression where millions of people joined together to protest the continued killings of Black people at the hands of police. This political stunt will disproportionately harm Black and brown Floridians who seek justice in our state.
“Giving those in power the ability to quash dissent is perilous, extremely unwise, and profoundly un-American. And yet, that is what Gov. DeSantis and certain legislators are attempting to do. It is now up to the Senate to heed the voices of Floridians, uphold their duty to the Constitution and stop this bill from ever becoming law.”