Governor Ron DeSantis convened a press conference yesterday to announce that his state was “not going to go down the road that other places have gone.”
What road would that be? Apparently the road to the First Amendment’s right to assemble and engage in constitutionally protected free speech. Speaking at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, DeSantis announced his intent to pass the “Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act.”
Today I announced bold legislation that creates new criminal offenses and increases penalties for those who target law enforcement and participate in violent or disorderly assemblies. We will always stand with our men and women in uniform who keep our communities safe. pic.twitter.com/ITl5GmmrZJ
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) September 21, 2020
What does Governor DeSantis have in mind for his constituents?
There’s collective punishment, if “7 or more people are involved in an assembly and cause damage to property or injury to other persons.” Will all seven protesters be liable if only two smash a window? Unclear!
He’d like to immunize drivers who run over protesters “if fleeing for safety from a mob.” Dozens of people have been rammed by cars driven by opponents of racial justice protesters, but now they’ll be able to assert the defense that they were fleeing.
Shouting at people in restaurants? A felony.
Throwing a water bottle at a cop during a protest? Mandatory six month sentence in jail with enhancements for being “an individual from another state.”
And no bail either for anyone charged with participating in a “violent or disorderly assembly.”
DeSantis wants to terminate “state benefits” for anyone “convicted of participating in a violent or disorderly assembly.”
He wants to waive sovereign immunity, but only as to jurisdictions “where the local government is grossly negligent in protecting persons or property.” (Really? Might want to think that one through a little more.)
He’s threatening to withhold “state grants or aid” — i.e. funding for everything from public schools to Medicaid — to municipalities which fail to maintain level funding for their police departments when COVID has decimated county budgets.
And, in the coup de grace, he wants to charge “anyone who organizes or funds a violent or disorderly assembly” with THE RICO. So everyone from a local college student organizing a Black Lives Matter rally to George Soros, whom DeSantis is convinced funds protests, despite exactly zero evidence, is involved in a criminal enterprise to … exercise their first Amendment right of assembly. It just makes too much sense!
Although DeSantis’s surprise announcement seems to have left some of his own party non-plussed.
“I can’t see someone who throws a brick at law enforcement not getting six months without a mandatory minimum,” Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) told the Miami Herald. “While I agree we have to support law enforcement 100%, we also have to recognize the right afforded to citizens to peacefully protest.”
But DeSantis was having none of that namby-pamby Constitution stuff.
“If you do it, and you know that a ton of bricks will rain down on you, then I think people will think twice about engaging in this type of conduct,” DeSantis said yesterday.
Harvard Law, Class of 2005, FTW.
DeSantis proposes crackdown on protesters, penalties to cities that ‘defund’ police (Miami Herald)
DeSantis calls for ‘ton of bricks’ penalties on protesters who commit illegal acts (Politico)
Elizabeth Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.