Protest bill set to take stage in Florida House

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Posted January 22, 2021 | News Service of Florida

With backing from Republican leaders, a House panel next week will take up a controversial proposal that, in part, is aimed at cracking down on violent protests.

The House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee is slated on Jan. 27 to take up the bill (HB 1), sponsored by Miami-Dade County Republican Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin.

The bill, along with an identical Senate proposal (SB 484), would create a host of new crimes, crackdown on protests and make it difficult for local government officials to trim spending on law enforcement. The legislation, in part, would create a new offense of “mob intimidation” when three or more people act “with a common intent, to compel or induce, or attempt to compel or induce, another person by force, or threat of force, to do any act or to assume or abandon a particular viewpoint.”

The bills would also enhance penalties for defacing public monuments, make it a crime to destroy a memorial and require mandatory restitution for the full cost of repair or replacement of damaged or destroyed memorials.

In addition, the bills would allow citizens to challenge reductions in local law-enforcement budgets and give the governor and Cabinet the authority to overturn reductions in spending.

Gov. Ron DeSantis released a similar proposal last year as the country was roiled by protests sparked by disparate treatment of Black people by police. House and Senate Republican leaders released the revamped version after supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol this month. Democrats, however, have said the legislation is overkill and is designed to quash the voices of Black and brown Floridians. 

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