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Florida House committee passes Gov. DeSantis' protest bill despite opposition

Florida House moves protest bill forward
Posted at 5:54 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 17:55:22-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The Florida Bill aimed at cracking down on violent protests moves forward in the Florida House with an 11 to 6 vote in the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee Wednesday.

About 70 speakers showed up at the Florida Capitol; most with a message that House Bill one violates their first amendment rights. While the bill is moving forward, they say they will not be silenced. Rev. Joe Parramore was one of the people present at the hearing.

"It was at some points contentious. At several times the chair gavelled some of us down and shut the mics off," said Rev. Parramore.

Speakers were asked to limit their comment to one minute; something that annoyed those is opposition.

"The greater issue that we were there to discuss, which is, I believe the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly was not even allowed because they reduced our speaking time to 1 minute," said Rev. Parramore.

If passed, it will limit local government's ability to redirect funds from the police to social programs, turn some misdemeanors related to protests into felonies, and make destroying any memorial a felony. It would also include mandatory jail time for some offenses. For Reverend Parramore, it's just another setback for those working to get their voices heard.

"Oftentimes protest is the last defense of many marginalized folks," said Rev. Parramore.

Another showing up to Wednesday hearing in opposition, Trish Brown. Brown was arrested in September during a protest.

"It's an unconstitutional bill and it's immoral. To be fighting something that we all know is unconstitutional and attacks our first amendment rights is painful," said Brown.

But there is also support. Leon County GOP Chairman Evan Power is putting his full support behind the bill.

"It's a polarizing issue for some people. I don't understand why that is," said Power, "The constitution gives us the right to peacefully assemble. When you turn to violence, that's something we should all agree on that it's unacceptable because you endanger other Floridians. The great part of the bill is that it protects everyone equally."

Power says stricter laws like this are needed.

"What we saw this summer here in Tallahassee is people were blocking roads and causing trouble and law enforcement had to get involved. We start taking some people's rights versus other people's," said Power.

Next up the bill has to be heard in the Senate Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice. Those against it say they will show up to each public hearing and be just as vocal as they were Wednesday night.