TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s new law, banning protesting at the private homes of residents and other individuals in the state, takes effect Oct. 1.
House Bill 1571, called Residential Picketing, received the approval of Gov. Ron DeSantis in May, after passing the Florida House and Senate. While the Senate vote was nearly unanimous, the House was more split, with the bill passing 76-41.
The bill specifically makes it illegal for people to picket or protest outside the dwelling of a person “with specified intent” but requires law enforcement officers to give a warning before an arrest can be made.
HB 1571 was sponsored and proposed by lawmakers from Gainesville and Bradenton. The bill’s sponsors, Sen. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) and Sen. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton), said it was meant to defend “the well-being, tranquility, and privacy of the home and protecting residents from the detrimental effect of targeted picketing.”
During the review process in the Florida Legislature, some proponents of the bill referenced the incidences of those protesting outside the family home of Brian Laundrie in North Port during the search for Gabby Petito.
Laundrie allegedly killed Petito during a road trip and later killed himself, according to reports by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His parents’ home in Sarasota County was the site of multiple protest efforts while the search for Petito, and then Laundrie himself, were underway.
While the public, and even some law enforcement officers testifying in favor of the bill, referenced its effects on protests like those in Sarasota County in September 2021, the bill itself was actually proposed in January.
The bill sponsors did not give the Petito protests as examples of activity that would be prohibited by the law. Instead, legislative analysis focused on protests at the homes of politicians, such as Florida’s U.S. senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.
Sen. Perry also said the bill would protect Floridians like a Brevard County school official, who faced protestors outside of her home after supporting mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. HB 1571 makes picketing someone’s home a second-degree misdemeanor.
“Our families didn’t sign up for this, our neighbors didn’t sign up for it, and there ought to be a place where you can go and expect to have kind of peaceful retreat from your day and your work. I just think your home and your neighborhood is one of those places,” Sen. Boyd told WFLA.com in February.
However, the Florida Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern about the bill, calling it unnecessary and harmful for Floridians, as well as a violation of free speech rights of protestors.
“Floridians do not need any more criminal statutes on the books that criminalize free speech or expand over-policing of our communities,” the ACLU told WFLA.com in February.
Under the law, which takes effect Saturday, protestors can be fined $500, as well as spend up to two months in jail for violating the new protest restrictions.