Earlier today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis proposed new legislation that would impose greater penalties and restrictions against what he called “violent and disorderly” protests. While the exact proposed legislation verbiage could not seem to be found online at the time of writing, the summary of the proposed Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act (included below) appears to lack concise definition of terms, which could easily lead to loosely interpreted protest scenarios.
Some of the most vague terms used in the proposed legislation would appear to be ones like “disorderly assembly,” and “mob.” The proposal also puts sanctions on harassing or intimidating a person at, what it calls, a “public accommodation.”
Standing out as one of the proposed legislation’s most shocking and questionable passages, is the line that states a driver is not liable for injury or death when “fleeing for safety from a mob.” As we saw in last week’s case of CVS employee Melissa Gray’s exaggerated and frantic 911 calls, when she clearly had room to make a three-point turn instead of driving into protestors, these definitions of terms like “safety” and “mob” are being left wide open for interpretation by too many possible sources. Sadly, this section 1B statement has the potential to empower counter-protestors to cause harm to protest groups, regardless of whether or not this legislation passes.
Perhaps the most shocking of revelations coming from the proposed legislation, is that it includes verbiage that will make it possible for the state to withhold “grants or aid from any local government that slashes the budget for law enforcement services.” What actually qualifies as “slashing the budget,” appears to have been entirely omitted from the released legislation summary.
Section 1E of the document states that RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) liability for any person who “organizes or funds a violent or disorderly assembly,” further instilling the proposal’s confusion and ambiguity, as even the term “disorderly” is defined as something that is lacking organization.
According to DeSantis’ announcement, the legislation must still be voted on in order to be passed into law, and will be filed for the next session beginning in March.