DeSantis is trying to criminalize dissent

Editor’s note: This is an important petition request….but please also contact FL Representative Mike Grant (re: HB 1, call (850) 717-5075 and https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/contactmember.aspx?MemberId=4349&SessionId=90) and FL Senator Joe Gruters ( re: SB 484, call 850-487-5023 and email https://www.flsenate.gov/senators/s23) to express your opposition to DeSantis’ Combating Public Disorder bill.

Governor DeSantis just launched a grievous attack on Floridians’ right to speak freely — a dangerous attempt to criminalize dissent, while dodging responsibility for his role in last week’s violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

He’s claiming that his new anti-protestor bill was introduced in response to Wednesday’s events, but we know better — DeSantis spent all summer designing this plan to silence, criminalize, and penalize as many Black Lives Matter activists as possible. [1]

We can’t let this shameless attempt to rebrand this horrifying legislation distract us from the truth: by attempting to overthrow the will of voters nationwide, Governor DeSantis played a part in instigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol — and now he’s trying to scare Black and Brown Floridians into silence.

Tell the Florida Legislature to fight back against DeSantis’s attempts to criminalize dissent in Florida

DeSantis’s proposed new law would enact overly harsh criminal penalties — including felony charges — to protestors who are just trying to exercise their constitutional rights. [2] This is wholly different from the insurrection that took place at the Capitol last week.

It would also require state approval for local governments who are interested in reducing funding for local police — a dramatic overreach of state power — and keep protestors imprisoned without bond if they’re arrested during demonstrations.

Governor DeSantis says his new rules are about making Florida safer, but he’s not telling the truth. These rules allow politicians like DeSantis to declare peaceful protests violent and allows them to send in riot cops and arrest anyone they find protesting, regardless of how peaceful they are.

Wednesday’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was despicable and should be investigated, with those involved held responsible for breaking numerous laws. But don’t conflate those illegal actions with the largely peaceful protests Governor DeSantis is targeting here. This bill is wrong — it’s an attempt to squash all free speech and peaceful assemblies, making it easier for the government to shut down any speech they disagree with.

And, it’s particularly dangerous for Black, Brown, and Indigeneous Floridians, who have been disproportionately punished by our police and judicial systems — police made 14,000 arrests during this summer’s protests against police brutality and anti-Black violence, compared to just 52 arrests during Wednesday’s attack in Washington D.C. [3]

We cannot let Governor DeSantis shut down free speech in Florida. Will you join our efforts to urge the Florida Legislature to reject Governor DeSantis’s undemocratic and unconstitutional proposal?

Thanks for all you do,

Anjenys Gonzalez-Eilert, Executive Director
Common Cause Florida

Footnotes:

[1] https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/florida/os-ne-desantis-protest-bill-opposition-20200923-ihsipkhwdncorouj4whycypss4-story.html
[2] https://www.orlandosentinel.com/politics/os-desantis-protest-crackdown-bill-legislature-20210107-qn5hq2suybfmvdlovbolyrcxoe-story.html
[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthart/2021/01/07/figures-show-stark-difference-between-arrests-at-dc-black-lives-matter-protest-and-arrests-at-capitol-hill/

Image Credits: DREW ANGERER/GETTY
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