Protesters held court at the Duval County courthouse last weekend to take a stand on House Bill-1. The bill was proposed by Governor DeSantis to combat violence, disorder and looting in Florida. If passed, the bill would upgrade penalties for illegal actions during riots and making it a felony to destroy any memorial in the state and limiting a city’s ability to re-direct funds from police to social programs. The bill was presented on the house floor and has garnered ire from local civil rights and political organizations. “This is extremist, militaristic and dangerous legislation,” said Ben Frazier president of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville (NCOJ), “He wants to criminalize peaceful protesters who are merely exercising their constitutional rights.”
The bill would remove liability for drivers who strike protesters during a march and would make it a felony to participate in a protest where property is damaged or where people are harassed at accommodations like restaurants. Anyone throwing objects at law enforcement would face six months in jail. Those arrested during protests would be denied bail before initial court hearings.
And those who organized or funded violent protests would be treated as members of an organized crime group.
The NCOJ partnered with Florida Rising and other local organizations for the ‘Justice for All’ rally to bring attention to the proposed legislation. Protesters from every nationality were donned in masks and stood at the makeshift podium, speaking loudly denouncing the proposed legislation. In addition, City Council members also took a stand and spoke to the crowd to ensure that they are not in agreement with the governor. Democrats have rallied on the policy as dangerous, worried it would discourage people of color from peacefully protesting.
The organizations are asking activists to participate in direct action nonviolent protests and to consider a call for an economic boycott of the entire state of Florida. Shown are Duval protesters and activist in front of the Duval County Courthouse.
“We need to kill this bill. It doesn’t matter what the intent is,” said Christina Kittle, of the Jacksonville Community Action Committee.
Organizers say the bill will encourage more protests across the state because they feel its an attempt to silence marginalized communities.
Recently elected State Rep. Angie Nixon is developing a house bill to combat House Bill 1, which prohibits the use of military tactics from the police during protests.