Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ team said Thursday he will enact an “anti-riot” law that will hand down harsher penalties on violent protesters.
Florida’s Senate approved HB 1 with a vote of 23 to 17, mostly according to party lines. DeSantis had announced the proposal last September during nationwide riots and looting in major cities.
“This legislation hits the right balance of protecting Floridian’s rights to peacefully protest while ensuring that those who cause violence will be dealt with., the governor’s office said. “This legislation also ensures that no city in Florida will engage in the defunding of their police.”
Apart from more criminal penalties for violence, the bill has a measure for state approval of any change to a budget that would lower funding for police. This was a response to Democrats’ urges to “defund the police” after George Floyd’s death last May.
HB 1 puts into place a felony charge for the damaging of any historical structure. It would also hold local municipalities civilly liable if they intervene or interrupt police efforts to defend against riots.
The bill passed the state Senate despite opposition from Democrats who say it breaks the First Amendment. Republicans say the bill is meant to stop violence and was not politically motivated.