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Tallahassee activists say Gov. DeSantis' new anti-riot bill targets BLM protesters

Posted at 11:44 PM, Sep 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-21 23:44:57-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — On Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis announced a three-tiered bill to crack down on rioting and disorderly assemblies, increasing the criminal penalty for those found guilty.

Now, a local activist group says the move by DeSantis is an attempt at silencing peaceful demonstrations.

"It's a targeted attack on Black and brown protesters that are using peaceful assembly to speak about systemic racism in this country," said Lakey Love with the Tallahassee Community Action Committee.

DeSantis says the new bill is a direct response to violence at disorderly assemblies, some of that violence has been seen recently in the Capital City.

"It will probably be the boldest and most comprehensive piece of legislation to address these issues anywhere in the country," said DeSantis.

The bill proposes a mandatory minimum jail sentence for striking a law enforcement officer with a compulsory six-month jail sentence.

A few weeks ago, 15 people were arrested at a protest, and some now face charges of battery on an officer.

Under the bill, blocking roadways could mean 3rd-degree felony charges. Drivers, like the pickup truck who drove through a Tallahassee protest in May, would not be liable for injuries with this law in place.

Those arrested will not receive bail or bond before their first court appearance.

"This kind of extreme police overreach is overbearing, to say the least, and heading toward a dictatorship of the worst kind," Love said.

Love has been an activist for years and says DeSantis is trying to make an example out of recent demonstrations that turned violent in Tallahassee.

"We had five law enforcement agencies with close to 300 police officers, and they pulled the first person over for driving too slow," said Love.

The Governor 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.

"I think what it's saying is that we are not going to let Florida go down the road that some of these other places have gone," DeSantis said.

Local activists say this is another reason for them to keep protesting.

"We know how the legislative process works, and we know how to kill bills," said Love.

Some in the community say the bill is something that would benefit the local community.

TCAC will hold a press conference on Tuesday to discuss how they plan to move forward after the bill's announcement.