4/24 - Should Protest be criminalized:
Updated: Apr 27
This week, Florida’s Republican governor Ron Desantis signed a law HB 1, which calls the “strongest anti-rioting in the country and pro-law enforcement,” as primarily white law enforcement officers witnessed him signing the law. This law was in response to the national protests after the death of George Floyd, some of them like what happened in Portland, Minneapolis, and Kenosha. The law calls for increased penalties for protesters who block traffic or vandalize confederate monuments, and any protests that have more than three people gathering would be considered “mob intimidation.” Also, it grants immunity to people who run over protesters with cars. Florida isn't the only one cracking down on the first amendment; Oklahoma also passed a bill that criminalizes freedom of speech. A lawmaker in Minnesota created a bill that bars those who were convicted in connection to a protest from student loans and health care. Still, it is unlikely to pass since the Democrat party controls both the statehouse and the governor’s office. In this journal, I will write if this law is constitutional or not and if the courts will strike down this law.
Already, the “anti-riot” law is facing scrutiny in the courts. A civil rights attorney in Orlando is suing the State of Florida over grounds that the laws violate several provisions of the US constitution. In a statement, the lawyer made a statement that the “anti-riot laws clearly strip Floridians of their freedom of speech and right to assemble.” After looking at the bill, HB 1 is overbroad on what is considered a riot and makes it easier for law enforcement to charge any gathering, even if the gathering is peaceful. For example, the vigil that La Raza hosted this week would be considered a “mob gathering” if it took place in Florida, and the organizers would be charged. It is possible that the courts could strike down this law as recent laws that target anti-rioting in both South Dakota and Virginia were struck down. However, with the Trump administration packing the courts with conservative-leaning judges, it could uphold this law that targets peaceful assembly.
Freedom of assembly is part of our American culture and democracy. From the Women’s Suffrage Parage of 1913 to the Civil rights movement in the 1960s, it has shown how people who unite as a community can make a difference in public policy. We have seen people on social media making a false equivalency between the summer protests and the January 6th insurrection. The Black Lives Matter protests were peaceful who were fighting for accountability, while the January 6th was nothing but violent who wanted to overthrow our democracy. We have to call out this law for what it is, anti-free speech, and it is not surprising that the Conservative anti-censorship activists like Ben Shapiro are silent or outright defending this law.
Written by Brandon Blanco, Political Chair. The views expressed in the journal are their own and not the view of The La Raza Pre Law.