Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday signed the “anti-riot” bill HB1 into law. The law, which goes into effect immediately, imposes more penalties on individuals participating in protests that turn violent. Violent protesters can now be arrested and charged with a third-degree felony, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years and loss of voting rights.
The law will also make it more challenging for cities and counties to reduce funding for law enforcement, allowing local elected officials to appeal those budget decisions to the governor’s office. The Executive Office of the Governor will conduct a budget hearing to consider the matter and will make findings and recommendations to the Administration Commission who will have the power to “approve, amend, or modify the municipality’s budget.” The budget as approved, amended, or modified by the Administration Commission will be final.
The law also imposes an affirmative duty on municipalities to “allow the municipal law enforcement agency to respond appropriately to protect persons and property during a riot or an unlawful assembly based on the availability of adequate equipment to its municipal law enforcement officers and relevant state and federal laws.” Municipalities that impede law enforcement response can become subject to civil liability under the new law.
After the bill passed the Florida Senate last Thursday, Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida released a statement calling HB 1 “racist, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic.” He also stated that he believes “Gov. DeSantis and certain legislative members are aiming to shut down political speech they disagree with in a direct attack on the First Amendment and at the cost of Black and Brown people. Finally, Kubic called the then bill “a disgrace to our state.”