Florida lawmakers pass 'anti-riot' bill accused of quashing speech
Friday, April 16, 2021       11:26 WIB

Miami, April 16, 2021 (AFP)
Florida's state Senate on Thursday passed an "anti-riot" bill in response to widespread protests against racism and police brutality last year in the United States, despite opponents' arguments that such a measure would limit free speech.
The bill passed in the Republican-controlled chamber with 23 votes in favor and 17 votes against.
Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the measure into law, strengthening penalties against those participating in protests that turn violent.
DeSantis, a supporter of former president Donald Trump who has been floated as a potential 2024 White House contender, proposed an early version of the "anti-riot" law in September.
The proposal was a response to protests that broke out across the United States and around the world after the death of George Floyd last May.
The Black man died after a white police officer -- whose murder trial is underway in Minneapolis -- knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.
Protests in Florida at the time were mostly peaceful.
Democratic Senator Annette Taddeo accused Republican colleagues of writing a bill designed to curry support among Trump's base, who are also often DeSantis supporters.
"We have to (instead) pass legislation for all Floridians," she said.
Senator Danny Burgess, a sponsor of the bill, defended it, saying it "is about preventing violence."
Critics say the law would disproportionately affect Black Americans, Hispanics and other minorities who already face racial discrimination, since the text is vague about what exactly a riot is and leaves definitions about what it means to participate in one open to interpretation.
And it includes protections for those who take action against protesters participating in a riot.
"That means someone who injures a protester can say 'but they were rioting' and not be liable for the injuries he (or) she causes," Norma Henning, government affairs coordinator of the Council on American-Islamic Relations ( CAIR ), told AFP.
The law also increases penalties for crimes committed during such protests, such as attacking a police officer or other law enforcement agent, and allows for prison terms of up to five years for participating or inciting a riot.
It would further penalize demonstrators who damage historical property, such as statues or flags, with up to 15 years in prison.
That measure is a response to the efforts to deface or topple monuments to Confederate figures who fought in defense of slavery.
"The bill is a continuation of Florida's longstanding history of silencing Black communities as it blocks their ability to express dissent about the multitude of injustices they face," said Mone Holder, of the racial justice organization Florida Rising.

Sumber : AFP