Democrats decry Republicans’ ‘muzzle’ legislation against violent protests
Reps. Evan Jenne and Bobby DuBose announced Democrats' ranking members for the coming Session.

Jenne DuBose
Democrats called the bill a piece of 'calculated opportunism.'

Republican efforts to crackdown on riots are unnecessary and “beyond tone deaf,” according to Democratic lawmakers.

Republican leadership in the Legislature have fast tracked a bill increasing penalties for violent protests after rioters breached the U.S. Capitol Wednesday. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans are highlighting the deadly assault as evidence that the legislation is necessary to deter violence from both sides of the political spectrum, but Democrats insist it is rooted in President Donald Trump‘s attacks against the Black Lives Matter protests from the summer.

DeSantis, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls first announced their proposal in September. But Sen. Danny Burgess and Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin expedited the process Wednesday, filing it as the nation followed the siege on Capitol Hill.

“This started when President Trump was angry about the spreading Black Lives Matter protests and was telling his allies to beef up crackdowns on the largely peaceful protesters,” said Sen. Perry Thurston, of Fort Lauderdale. “Governor DeSantis, an acolyte of Trump, was only too happy to oblige. It was a show of allegiance and a show of force, and it was targeted against one group and one group only.”

House Democratic Co-Leader Bobby DuBose called the revamped urgency of the bill, which was already considered a top Republican priority this coming Session, “calculated political opportunism.”

“They want to disguise the fact that this bill will suppress the voices of communities of color and appease a fearful base who are more interested in protecting Confederate monuments than in the safety and freedom of people who look like my sons and me,” he said.

“This is a muzzle to be placed over a very specific community so that it is more difficult and more terrifying for them to raise their voices up,” Co-Leader Evan Jenne added.

“Combating Public Disorder” (HB 1/SB 484) seeks to increase penalties for certain crimes committed during an unlawful assembly, including battery, assault or inciting a riot. Additionally, a person arrested for unlawful assembly must be held in custody until their first appearance.

Tampa Rep. Fentrice Driskell called the original bill “an assault on the civil liberties of Black people and those allies who would protest alongside them for their rights.”

Actions targeted in the bill are already illegal, DuBose and his caucus stressed. And Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer suggested Republicans could have “nefarious ulterior motives,” stifling protester’s free speech and protecting violence against protesters.

Early outlines of the bill would have made exceptions for violence committed by fearful non-protesters against protesters. For example, drivers fleeing a “mob” would not be liable for injury or death. That provision and an escalated “stand your ground” rule were not included in the bill language filed Wednesday.

DuBose said law enforcement officials haven’t called for stricter rioting punishments, and he noted that Black Lives Matter protests over the summer remained mostly peaceful.

But law enforcement leaders, including Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, stood alongside Republican leaders when they announced their proposal.

Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd‘s neck, killing him and sparking protests this summer, has a second home in Rep. Geraldine Thompson‘s hometown of Windermere. She has proposed a database to capture complaints of excessive force by law enforcement, creating red flags and allowing for possible interventions.

“That would be counseling, suspension, maybe even termination, decertification, but we have to have the data,” she said.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


  • Sonja Fitch

    January 11, 2021 at 2:20 pm

    What a joke! Any person or elected person that goes on Fox News are damn traitors and promoting lies and hate! Sprawls?

  • Shoot Me Now

    January 11, 2021 at 11:43 pm

    Shoot the looters on site if they try to burn down businesses.

Comments are closed.


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