Florida ‘anti-riot’ law doesn’t apply to Cuban freedom protesters arrested in Tampa, attorney argues

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The attorney for two men arrested during Cuban freedom demonstrations in Tampa on Tuesday told a judge that his clients weren’t charged under Florida’s new “anti-riot” law, so they should not be held without bond.

Thirty-year-old Julian Rodriguez-Rodriguez and 39-year-old Maikel Vazquez-Pico are believed to be the first defendants in the Tampa Bay area held without bond due to HB1. The so-called “anti-riot” law was cited in their charging documents.

Victor Zamora of Viza Law, the attorney representing both men, told Hillsborough County Judge Catherine Catlin in court Thursday morning that because neither of his clients were charged under the new statutes created by HB1, they shouldn’t be held without bond.

“If you look at the CRA [Criminal Report Affidavit], it only cites a Tampa municipal violation 14-41,” said Zamora. “The statutes don’t add up. That violation of municipal ordinance does not trigger that anti-riot law hold. And in my opinion, they shouldn’t even have been held without bond.”

All persons are hereby prohibited from gathering and standing in groups upon the streets, avenues and sidewalks of the city in such a manner as to obstruct the free passage of persons or vehicles upon the sidewalks or streets of the city.

Tampa Municipal Ordinance 14-41

Catlin didn’t address his argument, instead saying, “we’re here for a bond hearing, not for a trial.”

She then told both men, through an interpreter, that she was proud to live in a country where we can express opinions and protest peacefully.

“But what is alleged in this CRA is criminal activity, not protest,” Catlin said.

“I tell you this in case your ICE hold is lifted and you post bond,” said Catlin. “I encourage you to peacefully protest so that your legitimate message is heard. But criminal conduct will not be tolerated by this court.”

She then set bond for Rodriguez-Rodriguez at $5,000 each for two felony counts of battery on a law enforcement officer, $2,500 for one felony count of resisting an officer with violence and $1,000 for one misdemeanor count of “assemblies obstructing streets or sidewalks.”

Vazquez-Pico’s bond was set at $2,500 for one felony count of battery on a law enforcement officer, $500 for one count of resisting an officer without violence and $1,000 for one count of “assemblies obstructing streets or sidewalks.”

Both men were released from the Orient Road Jail on Thursday evening and tell 8 On Your Side they deny the charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and were attempting to help other protesters.

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