As racial-justice protests swelled around the country during his last year in office, Donald Trump made it abundantly clear that he had little regard for the constitutionally enshrined right to assemble. Regularly conflating peaceful protesters with violent ones, he frequently threatened to unleash “law and order” (read: police brutality) on people for having the audacity to attempt to have their voices heard. “Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis,” he wrote on Twitter on Juneteenth 2020. Earlier that month he had the National Guard tear-gas peaceful protesters assembled in D.C. in the wake of George Floyd’s killing so that he could do a Bible photo op. And now a Republican who many believe will follow in Trump’s White House footsteps is picking up where he left off, trying to prevent people from protesting systemic racism.
On Monday, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed an “anti-riot bill” into law that, among other things, grants civil immunity to people who decide to drive their cars into protesters who are a blocking a road. The bill, which was drafted in the wake of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, also penalizes local governments that interfere with efforts to stop riots; prevents people accused of rioting from being bailed out of jail until after their first court appearance; and makes it a second-degree felony to destroy a plaque, memorial, painting, flag, or other structure commemorating historical people or events (like, say, Confederate statutes). That would make such actions punishable by up to a decade in prison.
While the governor claimed the legislation “strikes the appropriate balance of safeguarding every Floridian’s constitutional right to peacefully assemble, while ensuring that those who hide behind peaceful protest to cause violence in our communities will be punished,” others have (quite rightly!) called it out for the assault on civil liberties it is.
“Not only is this racist at its core, but it’s also a reaction to what occurred over the summer after the death of George Floyd,” Democratic state senator Shevrin Jones told the Associated Press. “The governor made no mention of the January 6 insurrection.” Jones also noted that DeSantis had mentioned the bill in connection with the upcoming outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial, and the expectation that there may be protests if the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck is acquitted. “So he alluded to the verdict being not in the favor of justice, and so he says, ‘We want to be prepared,’” Jones said. “Be prepared for what? Not prepared for the white supremacists who stormed the Capitol, but he wants to be prepared for the demonstrations that will take place around this country if Derek Chauvin is acquitted.” In a statement, Micah Kubic, the executive director of ACLU Florida, said, “To be clear, the goal of this law is to silence dissent and create fear among Floridians who want to take to the streets to march for justice.” Of DeSantis and state lawmakers, Dream Defenders’ Nailah Summers told NPR: “They should be ashamed of themselves. Black lives matter and so do our constitutional rights. We’ll see you in court.”
1) Florida is getting close to 50 pct Black, Latino, Asian, etc, although you would not know from looking at this picture.
2) Wasn’t rioting already illegal? https://t.co/mGphLRtavZ
— S.V. Dáte (@svdate) April 19, 2021
In related news re: Republicans trying to crack down on other people’s civil liberties, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Sunday claimed she plans to introduce a resolution to expel Rep. Maxine Waters from Congress for speaking to protesters at a demonstration in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, following the police shooting of Daunte Wright. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also accused Waters of “inciting violence” in Minnesota, threatening to take “action” against the Democrat this week. (In response, Waters said Monday, “I am nonviolent. Republicans will jump on any word, any line and try to make it fit their message and their cause for denouncing us and denying us, basically calling us violent…any time they see an opportunity to seize on a word, so they do it and they send a message to all of the white supremacists, the KKK, the Oath Keepers, the [Proud] Boys, and all of that, how this is a time for [Republicans] to raise money on [Democrats’] backs.”)
Like DeSantis, neither McCarthy nor Greene made even a passing reference to the deadly attack that occurred at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. They also naturally said nothing about the fact that they personally helped fan the flames of the violence by voting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
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