Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs the Nation’s Toughest Anti-Rioting Law

AP Photo/John Raoux

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is putting on a clinic for other leaders who wish to crack down on rioting and looting. On Monday, the governor signed into law a bill designed to curb violent protests in the state.

DeSantis announced the signing of HB 1 during a press conference at the Polk County Sheriff’s office. “It is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country. There’s just nothing even close,” he declared.

The governor explained that among other issues, the legislation addressed the hard left’s push to defund the police.

“Obviously, the state of Florida, we’re not going to do that under my leadership,” he insisted. “But if a local government were to do that, it would be catastrophic, and have terrible consequences for their citizens. And so, this bill actually prevents against local governments defunding law enforcement. We’ll be able to stop it at the state level.”

This is similar to a proposal put forth by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in response to cities like Austin cutting funding from their police departments.

DeSantis’ law, which takes effect just before a jury is expected to give its decision in the Derek Chauvin case, allows local governments to be taken to court if they refuse or fail to stop riots.

“As we saw last summer, some of the local governments are actually telling, not necessarily in Florida but throughout the country, basically telling these folks to stand down, telling police to stand down while cities burnt, while businesses were burnt, while people were being harmed,” the governor said. “That’s a dereliction of duty.”

He continued:

What our bill says, and what I’ll sign into law today, is that if you’re derelict in your duty as a local government, if you tell law enforcement to stand down, then you’re responsible for the damage that ensues. And if someone’s been harmed, or their property has been destroyed, then they can sue you for compensation.

The measure defines a riot as a violent demonstration involving three or more individuals engaging in activity that causes injury to others, damage to property, or threat of both. According to Newsmax, “the law also created a new second-degree felony called an ‘aggravated riot,’ when the riot has more than 25 participants, causes great bodily harm or more than $5,000 in property damage, uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon, or blocks roadways by force or threat of force.”

Additionally, the law gives penalties for individuals who “commandeer highways” and destroy monuments. “Think about it, you’re driving home from work and all of a sudden you have people out there shutting down a highway,” DeSantis argued, “and we worked hard to make sure that didn’t happen in Florida. [If] they start to do that, there needs to be swift penalties and that’s something that can just not happen.”

He added: “We also saw around the country people toppling monuments, people like George Washington. This bill protects all monuments in Florida. You have no right to go in take down monuments. We’re not going to let the mob win the day with that.”

It did not take long for Florida’s government to pass the law. It was first filed in the state’s House of Representatives early in January. It passed the Senate last Thursday.

Predictably, the left isn’t very happy about the new legislation. Some are claiming that the new law violates the First Amendment.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikkie Fried released a statement on Monday taking issue with the legislation. “This isn’t a game. This Governor and his Republican allies love to talk about the Constitution, while shredding it with extreme legislation like HB 1. Silencing the speech of those seeking equality is straight from the Communist regime playbook,” she said, adding:

The criminal aspects of this bill are already illegal. HB 1 protects no one, makes no one safer, and does nothing to make people’s lives better. It’s simply to appease the Governor’s delusion of widespread lawlessness, and it’s frightening to imagine the lengths to which he’ll go to strip away rights and freedoms for political gain.

Of course, she did not explain exactly how the new law would violate the First Amendment as it clearly does not allow for the protection of violent protests. But this is to be expected, right? The last thing that the hard left would want is fewer riots, especially when they are related to controversial issues that they like to exploit.

It would not be surprising to see other states adopt a similar approach given the prevalence of rioting last year and the likelihood of more violent demonstrations this year. Indeed, given the fact that the activist media is already highlighting new police shootings of black men, it seems likely that more controversy will be ignited. Since many Democrats running the cities in which these riots occur do not seem interested in stopping them, perhaps it is time for state governments to step in.