(USA Features) Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed what he and state Republicans have characterized as the “strongest” anti-rioting and pro-law enforcement measure in the country.
The popular governor, who is being mentioned in GOP circles as an early and strong contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, announced the signing of HB 1 during a morning press briefing with Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd in Winter Haven.
“It is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country. There’s just nothing even close,” DeSantis said as he was surrounded by lawmakers and law enforcement officials.
Provisions of the new law include dealing with the “insane theory” of defunding police departments, WFLA reported.
“Obviously, the state of Florida, we’re not going to do that under my leadership,” DeSantis said. “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.”
The law, which takes effect immediately, also empowers citizens to sue local governments if they do nothing to stop a riot.
“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,” DeSantis said. “That’s a dereliction of duty.
“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,” he added.
“And if someone’s been harmed, or their property has been destroyed, then they can sue you for compensation.”
The law defines a riot “as a violent public disturbance involving 3 or more people acting with common intent resulting in injury to others, damage to property, or the imminent danger of injury or damage,” Newsmax reported.
It also creates a new “aggravated riot” charge that amounts to a second-degree felony when the riot involves more than 25 people, causes harm to others and creates more than $5,000 in damages. The charge also applies if rioters threaten to use a deadly weapon or block roadways using force or a threat of force.
“Think about it, you’re driving home from work and all of a sudden you have people out there shutting down a highway,” said DeSantis. “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.
“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 and take down monuments. We’re not going to let the mob win the day with that.”
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat and long-time opponent of DeSantis, blasted the measure.
“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 in a statement Monday.
“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.”