Democrats, including the only one elected statewide, are furious over House passage of a bill (HB 1) cracking down on protesters.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a potential 2022 candidate for Governor, slammed the legislation as evidence of misplaced priorities among the majority party.
“Today’s debate of HB 1 shows the unintended consequences of a bill for which no Floridian asked. We’re told this is a bill that we should unite behind — which makes me wonder if we’re all reading the same bill,” Fried asserted.
“We can unite behind protecting the rights of free speech — that’s not what this bill does. We can unite behind reforming the criminal justice system that rehabilitates instead of exploits — that’s not what this bill does. We can unite behind our local governments in protecting the health, safety, and well-being of their communities — that’s not what this bill does. We can unite behind valuing human life over property — again, that’s not what this bill does, but rather the opposite.”
“Floridians have asked for the bare minimum from their government: to help the unemployed, the sick, the hungry, and the disenfranchised. But as one lawmaker stated, this Legislature is hard of hearing,” Fried continued. “There are numerous bills that meet the people’s needs, but they languish without a hearing. The majority doesn’t have the courage to face the truth of where we are and where we need to be, with Floridians’ lives and livelihoods left to suffer the consequences.”
Rep. Kamia Brown contended that it’s “up to the Florida Senate now to stop this unconstitutional bill from becoming law.”
Groups active on the issue likewise castigated House passage of the legislation.
Carrie Boyd, policy counsel for the SPLC Action Fund, predicted a “chilling effect on protests everywhere, regardless of the content of that protest.”
“Sadly, HB 1 takes us back to a time when standing up for what is right requires you to be under the constant threat of arrest. Government trampling on Free Speech rights wasn’t okay when Martin Luther King Jr. was leading protests and it’s not okay today. Protesters ought to be protected, not arrested. And local governments should be trusted to make decisions that are best for their constituents. We urge the Florida Senate to reject this unconstitutional bill,” Boyd added.
Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida, said the legislation was “completely unnecessary.”
“This bill is not about preventing violence; it is about protecting the status quo. If it becomes law, this legislation will silence dissent and infringe upon the public’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest and assemble,” Gross said. “Protesters peacefully marching or rallying on any issue will face the threat of criminal prosecution anytime they choose to march in public. Hundreds of people have showed up at the Capitol to oppose this bill, and thousands more have contacted Legislators to urge their opposition. We can only hope the Florida Senate listens to the people because the Florida House ignored them.”