TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – HB 1, the controversial legislation seeking to increase penalties for crimes committed during a riot supported by Governor Ron DeSantis passed in the Florida Senate on Thursday.
Republicans say HB 1 is about public safety and cracking down on protests that escalate to violent riots. Some protests in Tampa turned violent during this summer following the death of George Floyd. Meanwhile, Democrats opened their remarks with a symbolic gesture, speaking for the same length of time as George Floyd laid with a knee on his neck last summer in Minnesota.
The bill lays out the definition of a riot, raises penalties for crimes committed during a riot and creates a process for state attorneys to challenge budget reductions to law enforcement.
The proposal would also make it a second-degree felony to destroy or demolish a memorial, plaque, flag, painting, structure or other object that commemorates historical people or events. That would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The final vote in the Senate was 23-17 in favor of HB 1, State Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) was a notable no vote.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the new law would give police broad discretion over what constitutes a demonstration and a riot.
“The bill was purposely designed to embolden the disparate police treatment we have seen over and over again directed towards Black and brown people who are exercising their constitutional right to protest,” said Micah Kubic, the executive director of ACLU of Florida.
After the bill’s final passage, DeSantis said he looked forward to signing the measure into law.
“This legislation strikes the appropriate balance of safeguarding every Floridian’s constitutional right to peacefully assemble, while ensuring that those who hide behind peaceful protest to cause violence in our communities will be punished,” the governor said in a statement.