House committee clears bill outlawing residential protests
A demonstrator raises his fist during a protest over the death of George Floyd, in Anaheim, California, Monday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Flag, Fist
Democratic lawmakers argue the bill is punitive and encroaches on free speech rights.

Protesting outside of a person’s home may soon lead to possible prison time under a bill OK’d Tuesday by a House committee.

The proposal (HB 1571) would criminalize such demonstrations, levy stiff penalties and empower law enforcement to crack down on residential protests.

The measure originally marshaled punishments including community service and a $25 fine for first time offenders.

A new amendment to the bill, however, now ups the offense to a second-degree misdemeanor, meaning violators may face up to 60 days in jail, a $500 fine and six months’ probation — per the statutory penalties listed in state law.

Republican Rep. Randy Maggard of Dade City is the bill sponsor. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee OK’d the bill along a 14-3 vote.

“They can protest me anywhere they want to,” Maggard said, before adding a caveat that he draws the line with his family and loved ones.

Residential demonstrations are not new phenomena. They are, however, growing more frequent, bill proponents say.

In 2004, antiwar demonstrators targeted the home of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Years later, protesters rallied outside the homes of Vice President Dick Cheney and later, Secretary of State John Kerry.

Those three are by no means alone. The home of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson was targeted by an antiracist group in 2018. Thinking it was a home invasion, Carlson’s wife and children locked themselves in a pantry.

Speaking in support of the bill, Orange County Sheriff John Mina noted protesters demonstrated outside the Florida home of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin — who killed George Floyd in May and sparked a wave of nationwide protests and riots — owned a home in Windermere.

“Our most sacred location is our home,” said Mina, who previously led the Orlando Police Department.

He also noted a recent neo-Nazi demonstration in East Orlando. The incident became a national news story and a thorn in the side of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“It’s not out of the realm of possibility that those folks could target a specific residence,” Mina added. “I think we would all agree that no one wants 20 people standing in front of their home wearing swastikas with hate speech.”

Still, Democratic lawmakers maintain the proposal encroaches on the right to free speech. Miami Beach Democratic Rep. Michael Grieco, a lawyer, characterized the bill as “arbitrary” and “subjective.”

“They’re just gonna be arresting everybody,” he said. “This is a recipe for broad brush disaster.”

Windermere Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson, meanwhile, urged the bill sponsor to revisit the proposal. She described the measure as “punitive” against peaceful protesters.

“I’m concerned about the bill, particularly when you talk about peaceful protests, and people gathering to show their concern with regard to an issue.”

The bill is slated to appear next before the House Judiciary Committee. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee advanced a similar bill Tuesday as well.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


One comment

  • Harrison Freeman

    February 9, 2022 at 3:46 am

    Florida Republicans would be right at home in Franco’s Spain, Mussolini’s Italy, or Hitler’s Germany.

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