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'Faith in Florida' aims to educate community on Gov. DeSantis' protest bill

The Florida legislature is set to vote on bill HB-1 this session
Posted at 11:01 AM, Feb 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 11:04:20-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL)  — A bill aimed at stopping violent protests is going before Florida's legislature in the upcoming 2021 lawmaking session.

The Leon-Gadsden branch of Faith in Florida is breaking down Florida bill HB-1.

"Here in Leon County, we have had a lot of peaceful protests," said Karen Miller, a congressional organizer with Faith in Florida.

The bill has been in the works since September of 2020 after some protests turned violent across the country in the wake of social injustice.

Law experts in a town hall held Thursday said the bill discourages people from peacefully protesting.

"They will be constrained not to protest over fear of what would happen by such laws as this,"
said Emily Moore, an attorney in Tallahassee.

If approved, the law would increase penalties for demonstrators if the protest becomes disorderly.

The bill has already moved forward in the Florida House but the Senate committee hasn't taken up the issue yet.

There are some people who have said that they have too many questions about the bill.

"This is about making sure all Floridians are able to make their voices heard and also know their businesses, homes and communities are not going to be destroyed by violent mobs," said State Rep. John Snyder.

Rep. Snyder is among 11 lawmakers on the criminal justice and public safety committee who voted to advance the bill.

"There's a fine line between peaceful protest and the right to assembly, and violence and rioting and it's when you cross that line that you pay a penalty and go to jail," said Rep. Snyder.

Faith in Florida said while their goal is to educate people on the political process, they do not support this bill.

They said if a demonstration becomes violent it should not negatively impact the people who are peaceful.

"Everybody doesn't fit the same cookie mold, everybody is not a rioter or tearing up property," said Tracey Stallworth, a congressional organizer for Faith in Florida.

Now they wait to see if the bill will become law.

The bill was filed on Jan. 6, the day of the U.S. Capitol attack, and Republican legislators say that the bill was filed in response to the insurrection.