The Florida Senate passed House Bill 1 on Thursday, a bill which “combat[s] public disorder” by requiring that municipalities allow law enforcement “to respond appropriately to protect persons and property during a riot or an unlawful assembly” and imposes civil liability for any damages incurred during the riot if a municipality breaches this duty. The bill also increases criminal penalties for assaulting or battering an officer during something classified as a riot, providing that these offenses be classified more seriously than regular assault or battery. The bill adds a restriction on mob intimidation, stating the following:
It is unlawful for a person, assembled with two or more other persons and acting with a common intent, to use force or threaten to use imminent force, to compel or induce, or attempt to compel or induce, another person to do or refrain from doing any act or to assume, abandon, or maintain a particular viewpoint against his or her will.
The provision, enacted in response to videos of protestors who were harassing outdoor restaurant customers, would allow groups of three or more people who “threaten to use imminent force” to persuade others to change their viewpoint to be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor.
House Bill 1 has been controversial because some legislators believe it will affect Floridians’ First Amendment right to assemble. The bill, however, has been widely supported by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who will be presented with the opportunity to sign the bill into law.