Photo via Gov. Ron DeSantis
This morning, in the midst of George Floyd’s murder-by-cop trial and surrounded by a crowd of grinning white men, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law his signature piece of legislation, a hyperpartisan “anti-riot” bill that most certainly sucks.
Despite Democrats and Black legislators arguing that the measure would squash First Amendment rights and disproportionately impact people of color, who are already arrested and incarcerated at higher rates than white people, DeSantis told reporters at a press conference in Winter Haven today that the bill is the “strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country.”
"We saw unprecedented rioting throughout 2020," the governor said, while ignoring the fact that most of this 'rioting' didn't happen in Florida. "We wanted to make sure we protect the people of our great state, businesses and property against any type of mob activity. We’re here today being prepared to sign that bill into law."
Besides creating a new felony crime of “aggravated rioting” that carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, the bill proposes a host of changes, including the new crime of “mob intimidation,” which would make it unlawful “for a person, assembled with two or more other persons and acting with a common intent, to use force or threaten to use imminent force, to compel or induce, or attempt to compel or induce, another person to do or refrain from doing any act or to assume, abandon, or maintain a particular viewpoint against his or her will.”
The bill also protects Confederate monuments along with other racist memorials, statues and historic property, and limits local governments from reducing bloated police budgets.
“This bill actually prevents local government from defunding law enforcement,” said DeSantis. “We will be able to stop it at the state level.”
Of course, Florida Democrats did what they could, which is pretty much limited to just saying the bill is bad and DeSantis is bad.
“This legislation undermines every Floridian’s constitutional rights, and it is disgusting that the GOP would rather empower vigilantes and silence voices than listen to the majority of Floridians who oppose this dangerous bill,” said Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, who is Black, in a statement. The Governor’s press conference spectacle was a distraction that will only further disenfranchise Black and Brown communities. We need to deliver much-needed relief to those hurting from the pandemic, from families grieving after losing loved ones, to workers whose hours have been cut, to small businesses forced to shutter, to our schools — not waste more time flaming divisive rhetoric that will tear more people apart.”
The “anti-riot” bill was a signature item for DeSantis, who is running for reelection in 2022, and was signed into law despite opposition from experts and from his own constituents. A recent poll by Florida Politics found that nearly 40% called the proposal a very bad idea, and another 23% considered the bill a somewhat bad idea. However, slightly more than 19% considered the legislation a very good idea, and only 18% said it somewhat good.
A study released earlier this month found that the bill would not only overload the prison system, but also burden taxpayers. The study estimated that roughly “270 to 720 additional prison beds will be occupied under the bill’s new and enhanced charges at any given time.”
“The bill, if passed and signed into law, will impose costs to the taxpayer and to those arrested that far exceed the possible benefits of the increased sanctions,” said Dr. Rick Harper, an economist and former director of the University of West Florida Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development, who conducted the study.
Monday's signing attracted a who's-who of local chuds, including Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, PBA president Darla Portman, and Florida media-lovers Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
"Pay attention, we got a new law and we're going to use it if you make us. We're going to protect the people,” said Judd, who over the summer encouraged vigilantism against BLM protesters. "We saw folks' businesses around this nation who literally worked their entire life and had every penny in their life savings involved. We’re going to be proactive and we’re going to make sure people are safe."
But everything you need to know about this horribly shitty bill can easily be summed up by the fact that DeSantis took zero question from reporters today, but gave an exclusive interview to Breitbart, the alt-right publication that up until a few years ago had a "Black Crime" section on its website.
As of now, Democrats and civil rights groups argue the law may get caught up in legal battles and eventually be struck down by the Supreme Court, but one thing is certain: Ron DeSantis is a steaming turd.
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