Tampa activists say DeSantis’ anti-protest invoice may “deny the black liberation motion any means to make change.”
Just a few blocks from the bustle of Tampa Super Bowl experienceA group of about 20 people gathered in Lykes Gaslight Square Park on Saturday to protest against two identical bills introduced by Republican lawmakers in the Florida House and Senate earlier this month.
The House of Representatives (HB1) and Senate (SB484) bills, formerly known as the Public Disruption Act, are very similar “Anti-Protest” legislation Florida Governor Ron DeSantis proposed last year that action should be taken against “disorderly” protests.
Although there are minor discrepancies between the new bills and DeSantis’ proposal, activists argue that the House and Senate bills would similarly serve to suppress and criminalize demonstrations of civil and political disagreement.
“It’s obviously unconstitutional,” said Will Blake of the Tampa Bay Community Action Committee (TBCAC), which helped organize the Saturday rally.
“This legislation was supposedly created to protect people who choose to oppose protests and small businesses,” said Liz, another protester who spoke during the rally. “Its actual effect, however, is supposed to stop dissent and deny the black liberation movement any ability to make changes.”
Among other things, the bills would punish the demolition of public monuments with up to 15 years imprisonment, expand the definition of “insurgency”, create new riot-related crimes such as “intimidation of mobs”, and deny bail to those charged with this charge and the local authorities override police budgets by allowing the governor and cabinet to make changes to city police budgets at the request of a city resident.
Saturday’s protest came days after the “Anti-Protest” House Bill (HB1) was received his first hearing with the Florida House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee, where at least 69 people signed up to discuss the bill, with all but three against.
Several of these speakers were from the central Florida area, including a resident of St. Pete Cop Watch and organizers from Dream Defenders and Organize Florida.
Despite the resounding opposition, the Republican majority committee voted 11 to 6 in favor of advancing House Law, which sparked reactions from state lawmakers, activists and civil rights organizations on social media.
“It is shameful that some lawmakers are maintaining HB 1 instead of prioritizing COVID relief, health care, unemployment and our housing and eviction crisis,” the Florida American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a legal nonprofit, wrote in a press Publication shared on Wednesday evening.
Tampa Bay lawmakers on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, Dianne “Ms. Dee” Hart (D-Tampa) and Andrew Learned (D-Brandon), in particular, voted against the bill.
“This will do nothing to make us safer. It will just fill our prisons and jails and keep people away from their jobs, families and the law, ”said Hart, who told the committee she had already received over 4,000 calls and emails from individuals about the bill.
Learned, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said the bill was redundant, too broad and would suppress freedom of expression in its current form. Republicans like Florida House spokesman Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor), however, defended the merits of the law, arguing that it would increase penalties for “domestic terrorism” and “violent mobs” trying to take property and people to damage.
A timely note considering both bills were filed on Jan. 6, the same day a frenzied right-wing mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, leaving at least five deaths numerous investigations for defendants charged in federal court in the District of Columbia.
Since the US Capitol riot, Republican lawmakers in Florida, Mississippi, Indiana and other states have passed laws criminalizing protests under the guise of preventing future right-wing riots. The Intercept, a left-wing publication, based on In particular, the Florida and Mississippi bills as a “new brand of anti-protest anti-steroid laws”.
Local organizers of the Saturday rally said they plan to head to Ann Arbor in early March to speak out against the Senate and House bills before the legislature vote.
Both the Florida House and the Senate are controlled by Republicans. If passed, House and Senate bills would have an effective date of July 1, 2021.
01/30/2021 | Photos by Dave Decker