Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1, known as the “anti-riot bill” on Monday, and is now facing a constitutional challenge. The challenge was filed Wednesday and the civil rights attorneys behind the challenge are saying the new laws unconstitutionally “seek to arrest the peaceful expression of free speech.”
The bill is designed to enhance penalties for criminals committing acts of violence during riots.
The challengers said the new bill violates free speech protected by the First Amendment, as well as violating cruel and unusual punishment protections in the Eighth Amendment and due process violations of the Fourteenth Amendment.
On Fox News, DeSantis defended the bill saying it was not unconstitutional and it was “really necessary” after last summer’s violent protests.
“If you break into a store and damage people’s property, or steal people’s property, doesn’t have anything to do with the First Amendment,” DeSantis said. “”If you have a mob of people descend on an innocent civilian, and intimidate and harass them, doesn’t have anything to do with the First Amendment. And so I think this was a really necessary piece of legislation.”
Florida Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida have criticized the bill saying it is extremely dangerous and infringes on constitutional rights.
“Gov. DeSantis signed a racist, anti-democratic, un-American bill into law Monday,” tweeted the ACLU. “We will always fight for Floridians’ First Amendment rights.”
Gov. DeSantis signed a racist, anti-democratic, un-American bill into law Monday.
We will always fight for Floridians' First Amendment rights. https://t.co/bPvE12BxjI
— ACLU of Florida (@ACLUFL) April 20, 2021
Aaron Carter Bates, Orlando-based attorney representing the plaintiffs said the bill is a government overreach.
“The purpose of these laws are nothing more than an attempt to silence the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil organizations by limiting the ability to protest,” Bates said. “The First Amendment is a pillar of American democracy, and the anti-riot laws clearly strip Floridians of their freedom of speech and right to assemble.”
Spokesman for DeSantis, Cody McCloud, said they will defend the legal merits of the law and said the bill ensures rioters causing damage will be fairly punished.
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