Civil Rights Advocates File New Lawsuit Against Florida’s “Anti-Riot” Law

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Civil rights activists have filed a joint lawsuit against Florida’s recently enacted “anti-riot” law, which they claim is directed against black protesters.

The law was backed by Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, LegalReader.com noted earlier this month.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that the lawsuit was filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, and the Community Justice Project.

“The law is aimed at black protesters and their allies who demand racial justice and who have already slowed down protest activity among black organizers in Florida,” the lawsuit said.

The bill – also known as HB 1 – was passed after Black Lives Matter and other protests against racial equality swept the nation, many in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. According to the plaintiffs, Florida lawmakers pushed ahead with their bill, knowing that the “majority of the protests” were peaceful.

Image of police brutality via Pixabay. Public domain.

HB 1 creates a range of new criminal penalties for demonstrators and improves existing penalties for those who take part in certain actions during a protest.

Law critics have said that people who protest peacefully could face prosecution of a small minority of their compatriots.

For example, the law provides that peaceful demonstrators could be charged if “they are in the immediate vicinity of an act of violence or property destruction in which they are not participating”.

“Since (part of the law) allows law enforcement agencies discretion to arrest nonviolent demonstrators in close proximity to a violent outbreak caused by others, potential demonstrators have been and are being discouraged from participating in demonstrations for fear that the intentions and actions of others could harm them be able to prove criminal sanctions ”, it says in the lawsuit.

NAACP organizers have said that the law does nothing but suppress the voices of blacks who may believe protests are the best chance for the voices to be heard.

“A protest is the voice of the unheard,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida State Conference of NAACP branches and youth units. “Blacks and browns have been taking to the streets for decades to make their voices heard. HB 1 is full of criminalization and disenfranchisement against black and brown Floridians. “

“Rather than looking for ways to support these voters, Governor DeSantis’ overriding legislation is designed only to harm them. Peaceful protests will continue to speak for the many, ”added Nweze.

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