Orlando activists speaking out against Florida's 'anti-riot' bill
Orlando, Fla. - As the controversial "anti-riot" bill sits on the desk of Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, Orlando activists are speaking out against it.
The legislation creates harsher punishments for violent protesters and establishes new felonies including mob intimidation. It also enhances penalties on existing riot-related offenses, offers no bond to offenders until their first appearance and municipalities would have to justify proposed cuts to police budgets.
Maxwell Frost participated in Black Lives Matter protests this summer in Orlando that mostly remained peaceful. He expects there would have been smaller groups if the law was in place then.
"It is meant to silence people," said Frost. "I think we would have seen fewer people hit the streets out of fear of going to jail, out of fear of being criminalized fear of losing their family, fear of losing their state benefits."
Attorney Lawrence Walters with Walters Law Group says the bill could be challenged as a first amendment violation.
"If you’re looking at these potentially very serious felony charges based on your participation in a protest, that may prevent people from exercising their constitution and protective rights," said Walters.
Walters believes the bill will not help the root of the issues that protesters have.
"It may result in fewer protests, or people going to jail for longer periods of time, but it’s not going to fix the problems we see or the reasons people are protesting," said Lawrence.
State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, says he thinks the bill is necessary.
"We don't want Florida to become Seattle, Minneapolis, Kenosha, where lawless criminals destroy business and homes. That's not protesting that's a crime," said Fine.
Frost believes the bill could stop someone from attending a peaceful protest.
"People should feel empowered to go out and speak truths," said Frost. "Our elected officials shouldn’t be saying let's silence those who disagree with us."