By Carlton Riley – Duval County Organizer at Florida Rising – Freedom of speech and lawful assembly are under assault from Gov. Ron DeSantis and our Republican-dominated legislature. DeSantis’ Combating Public Disorder Bill (Senate Bill 484/House Bill 1) is a direct attack on Black lives and our democracy. This bill will impact arrested protestors by getting a third-degree felony. This felony will cause you not to be eligible to vote in any election. Someone expressing their concern for injustice in the community when speaking against crises in the community.
We must fight back against the Combating Public Disorder Bill (Senate Bill 484/House Bill 1) or Floridians will be facing a nightmare that is all too real, and possibly deadly.
The deaths of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and Jamee Johnson propelled Floridians to demand an end to police brutality and to mandate police accountability. Moreover, the ongoing pandemic is the worst health and economic crisis in Florida’s history. Floridians are begging for help — and leadership. Instead, he is doubling down on his disdain for communities of color. He should be laser-focused on fixing the unemployment system, increasing COVID vaccines, solving the current climate crisis, or providing better access to health care. These problems within the state are a bigger priority in our communities today.
Although this legislation was drafted in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, Ron DeDeSantis has cited the recent capitol building storm. The events at the capitol didn’t practice freedom of speech but instead a premeditated crime.
He is playing politics with HB1, and trying to link the Black Lives Matter movement to the insurrectionists and white supremacists who stormed the United States Capitol to stage a coup for Trump and stop the count of Electoral votes. His actions and those of Republican lawmakers are morally reprehensible and irresponsible.
DeSantis and other supporters of this legislation are attempting to take the focus off the January 6th mob of white supremacists, silence Black voices, and criminalize legitimate peaceful protests.
If HB1 becomes law, police will have the power to arbitrarily arrest anyone for “disorderly assembly” even when most participants are peacefully demonstrating or marching. This third-degree felony would carry a jail sentence of six months, with no right to bail while awaiting a court date. Those arrested also could lose the government benefits they receive.
What’s most disturbing about this bill is vehicular manslaughter would be waived as a potential charge against people who target protesters with their vehicles under the guise of fearing for their lives. This is an expansion of the stand-your-ground law.
Florida Rising, a political organization bringing together Black and Brown communities to seize power and govern to advance social, economic, and racial justice across Florida, stands with the people in defense of their constitutional rights. Florida Rising is working on several fronts to combat this bad legislation. Supporting other North Florida coalitions in events to bring awareness to the bill. This will allow members to be educated and updated on the HB1 bill. You can send your letter of opposition to the House Judiciary Committee. You can also join Florida Rising’s people assemblies hosted every month. Anyone interested can also sign up through the organization’s website to join our newsletter list. You can make a difference in your community by educating and inviting other supporters against this bill.
DeSantis’ actions in support of HB1 are insulting. He won’t acknowledge or address police brutality and violence in our state. He is misusing his power to create more reasons to arrest, harass and even kill Black and Brown people who exercise their constitutional rights to march and protest. He wants to force people to choose between jail or peacefully protesting. Floridians don’t need DeSantis’ world view of white privilege and white supremacy. We need justice, real police accountability, and criminal justice reform.
Carlton Riley is the Duval County Organizer at Florida Rising