Protesters gather as ‘anti-riot’ bill readies for final House vote

The bill is a top priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican lawmakers.

With controversial House legislation ready for the floor, protesters gathered outside the Capitol building Thursday.

Despite rain, clergy, nurses, first responders and students huddled under the House portico to protest the “anti-riot” bill. The group, called Faith in Florida, held signs showing victims of police brutality.

The legislation (HB 1) is on its second reading in the House. The bill has strong backing from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Committee meetings that considered the legislation drew scores of speakers with no members breaking from party lines.

Two Democratic lawmakers spoke at the press conference.

“When we stand united and refuse to back down justice does prevail. So not only do we have to keep up the fight. We have to double our efforts. We have to fight even harder, because there is light at the end of the tunnel. We can stop this bill,” Broward Rep. Kevin Chambliss said.

Brandon Rep. Andrew Learned is the only Democratic representative who sits on all three House committees that heard the bill. He said his office has received 14,000 emails on the bill. Learned said only six of those emails were in support of it.

“This bill has united people from both sides of the political spectrum,” Learned said. “We’ve seen testimony from pro-life activists and Planned Parenthood, self-described socialists and police chiefs, Trump rioters and Black Lives Matter protesters, all in opposition to this bill.”

The bill would create tougher penalties for already existing crimes when the person commits the act within a group of three or more people.

The bill also creates the crime of “mob intimidation,” which the bill describes as when a group of three or more people “with a common intent, to compel or induce, or attempt to compel or induce, another person by force, or threat of force, to do any act or to assume or abandon a particular viewpoint.”

Learned said the bill is unnecessary and only serves partisan politics.

“Our primary focus right now should be COVID relief,” Learned said. “Instead, the Governor and my Republican colleagues are laser-focused on playing partisan politics and increasing penalties for things that are already crimes.”

So far companion legislation (SB 484) in the Senate has not been heard in any committees.

“I’m hoping it’s not going to move anywhere. I’m hoping they don’t have the votes. It’s not a good bill, and it shouldn’t be heard,” Learned said.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown covers state government for Previously, Haley covered the West Virginia Legislature and anchored weekend newscasts for WVVA in Bluefield, W.Va. Haley is a Florida native and a graduate of the University of Florida. You can reach her at [email protected].


  • James Robert Miles

    March 18, 2021 at 2:18 pm

    Republicans doing what Republicans do. Trying to do away with ANY KIND OF PROTEST and free speech as they march towards fascism and authoritarian government. Led by DeSatan which is no surprise. When will Florida voters wake up to the fact that the goal of the GOP is to do away with democracy which they came close to doing with Trump. They continue to support the insurrection of Jan. 6, and the GOP politicians who supported this should all be charged with treason! The GOP is a danger to the future of the U.S. and everything that it stands for. They should be voted out of office pronto!

    • Bob

      March 19, 2021 at 9:07 am

      Don’t break stuff and block highways and you can protest all day for all I care.

  • Ron Ogden

    March 18, 2021 at 2:24 pm

    Mobs of bullies are bad things; mobs of bullies who act out are even worse. This bill protects the right to protest PEACEFULLY. Nobody from any police organization got after THESE protesters, I notice.

    • Tjb

      March 21, 2021 at 5:09 pm

      It is a bill that can be misused and appears to be in odds with several of our US Amendments. This bill would allow law enforcement to arrest ANY protesters or person at a rally that turns violent. Once arrested they are imprisoned without bail. It is also a bill that promote violence. An example would be when a racist attacks or murder a protester, the attacker (s) faces very limited legal liability for their actions. This bill will nullifies the key elements of the 1st 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th Us Amendment. If a similar bill was in place in DC on January 6, 2021, law enforcement would have been able to arrest the thousands of rioters who attacked our Capitol and all of these protesters would now be facing felonies charges. Final thought, looks like Florida Republicans wants a totalitarian government with this bill. What’s next, book burning and secret prisons to control the masses.

  • Sonja Fitch

    March 20, 2021 at 5:56 am

    These white boy/man fanatics are just paranoid delusional racist sexist jerks! Has the Publix heiress been arrested for treason? Why not? Even with the money if she was black or brown she would have been arrested! White rich are the damn instigators of violence and hate. Yeah you! Rutherford voted against protecting law enforcement and protecting women from violence. Get out Rutherford! You a white boy/man fool!

Comments are closed.


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