TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Mayor John Dailey held a press conference Tuesday, March 23, speaking against Governor Ron DeSantis' proposed legislation, HB1, often referred to as the "anti-protest bill."
Dailey said the bill doesn’t just increase the penalties for those who commit violence during a protest, it allows someone to be arrested for simply participating in a protest where violence occurs.
"As the Capital City of Florida, the third-largest state in the union, we experience more protests, marches, sit-ins, and demonstrations than any other city in the state, and we already have all the tools we need to address acts of violence in our city," said Dailey. "This bill is attempting to solve a problem we don’t have, and it will have the effect — intended or not — of stifling constitutionally-protected speech."
If passed, CS/HB1: Combating Public Disorder will limit the 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 monument a felony.
"We all agree that more needs to be done to combat extremism, White supremacy, and domestic terrorism in our country and in our communities, but the anti-protest legislation making its way through the Florida Legislature now does none of those things," Dailey said. "And while some suggest that this legislation is in response to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the truth is that it was proposed last summer in the wake of the global protests against racial injustice after the killing of George Floyd and directed at Black Lives Matter protests."
The bill also proposes a mandatory minimum jail sentence for striking a law enforcement officer with a compulsory six-month jail sentence.
“As law-enforcement officers in the state of Florida, we are bound to uphold and enforce laws set forth by the Florida state statutes pertaining to public safety and protection of property. In the same breath, we are also bound to uphold the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution," said Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil. "We hope the arguments for these rights and the outcome of this legislation takes into consideration the respect for both state law and constitutional rights.”
Gov. DeSantis says this bill is to protect law enforcement and other people who may be impacted by riots or disorderly assemblies.
He says he doesn't want Florida to repeat what's happening in other states.
"As mayor, I take seriously my responsibility to keep all of our citizens safe," said Dailey. "We have zero-tolerance for violence, and we are going to enforce our laws to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of all of our residents."
Under the bill, blocking roadways could mean 3rd-degree felony charges. Drivers, like the pickup truck that drove through a Tallahassee protest in May, would not be liable for injuries with this law in place.
"It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are protesting, whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, or an NPA — you should not fear reprisal from the government solely because they don’t like what you have to say and you may have said it in proximity to bad actors," Dailey said."
Florida legislators reconvene Thursday, March 25.