Gov. Ron DeSantis took to the Tucker Carlson show Monday to dismiss critics of his provocative “Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act.”
That bill, which will be an early Session priority, would enhance penalties for protesters and slash state funding for subsidiary governments moving to “defund the police.” It would also issue stronger penalties for “rioting, looting, and violence,” and other “disorderly” actions.
“People reflexively on the far left” have come out against the bill, DeSantis said.
“I think that they just do the typical stuff that they do,” DeSantis added. “Some of the people on the far left are just anti-police.”
“And so when they see me standing there with the sheriffs and police chiefs, saying ‘no, no, no, you’re not going to defund the police, we’ll defund you’ … they’re basically caught in a position,” DeSantis said.
“We’re in an election season. Everyone running for office in Florida,” DeSantis said, “they’ve got to take a position on this now.”
First appearances are that most Democrats will take issue with the bill, given the responses from throughout the party that rolled out in the hours after the Governor floated the law and order proposals.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said that “[i]nstead of prioritizing issues impacting people’s lives, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Republican Party of Florida are fear-mongering at the expense of Floridians, and making a mockery of our legislative process to pull a political stunt for Donald Trump ahead of the 2020 election. “
“This bill is unconstitutional, authoritarian, and serves as a distraction from the serious issues Florida is facing. It will only move us backwards in the pursuit of social justice,” Fried added.
Senate Democrats made similar statements, with three offering quotes.
“The governor is attaching himself to Donald Trump’s propaganda and manufacturing a non-existent law and order crisis in Florida,” said Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson. “It’s political fearmongering to bolster a president’s re-election bid.”
“Non-violent protest has been a critical and basic principle of this nation, and has repeatedly changed the course of history for the better,” said Sen. Bobby Powell. “The governor’s proposal has nothing to do with safeguarding that right. This crackdown is just that – a government sledgehammer to permanently silence opposing voices.”
“The governor could not name a single city, a single town, or a single community in Florida that was the victim of violent protests, because there has been none. The governor is attempting to link calls for justice to calls for anarchy, without any evidence to support such a claim. This is using a problem from somewhere else to strip the liberty of people in this state to voice their constitutional right to peacefully dissent. And it’s the latest in a long line of efforts to quash the people’s ability to demand change when the government refuses to listen,” added Sen. Perry Thurston.
Sen. Annette Taddeo was “extremely disturbed by the blatant #FirstAmendment violations in the Governor’s proposed legislation.”
“This is unlawful, immoral, and wrong,” she tweeted.
House Leader Kionne McGhee was also not a fan of the legislation.
“Under this, those ‘Patriots’ involved in the Boston tea party would be put in jail for over a year with no chance of Bail! I was in the streets with pots/pans when the Heat won the championship I was in the streets with my brothers/sisters who challenged oppressive regimes.”
“Under this proposal, my friends and I are going to be charged with a felony and given no bail when we come together to beat our pots and pans in the streets to celebrate the Heat winning the Championship,” tweeted the South Florida lawmaker.
Rep. Anna Eskamani, a potential candidate for Governor in 2022, blasted the pitch in a series of tweets accusing DeSantis of “going full-on Donald Trump mode.”
“As folks suffer from FL’s broken unemployment system and lack of COVID19 relief, DeSantis announces legislation to punish protesters, creating CRIMINAL penalties, essentially trying to incarcerate MORE people. Fearmongering at its finest, all for election season too,” Eskamani, a Democrat from Orlando, tweeted.
She went on to say DeSantis and other “state leaders are trying to fuel national tensions over police brutality versus talk about the problems right in front of us.”
“Let’s be clear of what this is — 100% an election stunt. Just like the Governor’s attacks on immigrants, he constantly demonizes BIPOC to achieve an election agenda. When they can’t win on actual issues all they can do is distract and use black/brown people as the enemy,” Eskamani added.
Some were much more succinct.
Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Broward County legislator running for Senate, also delineated constitutional concerns.
The Governor “trying to block people from using their 1st amendment right to protest is a slap in the face to everyone fighting against injustice, especially Black people. It’s wrong and it’s unconstitutional.”
Angie Nixon, who will be the next representative from Jacksonville’s HD 14, was blunt: “No words….”