WINTER HAVEN, Florida — Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is expected to sign HB 1, dubbed the “Anti-Riot Bill,” on Monday, which strengthens penalties for those who engage in lawless behavior during a riot and allows for an appeal process in the event of localities attempting to slash police budgets, ultimately making it more difficult to “defund the police,” among other measures.
DeSantis is expected to make the announcement at a 10 a.m. press conference at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Winter Haven, Florida.
“This 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,” DeSantis said in a statement following the Florida Senate passing the bill 23-17 on Thursday.
The bill essentially enhances criminal penalties for those committing lawless behavior during a riot, which the text defines as a “violent public disturbance involving an assembly of three or more persons, acting with a common intent to assist each other in violent and disorderly conduct,” resulting in either injury to another person, property damage, or “imminent danger” or injury to another person or damage to property. The bill also increases penalties for assault or battery on first responders.
Per the bill’s text:
In the case of assault, from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a misdemeanor of the first degree.
In the case of battery, from a misdemeanor of the 425 first degree to a felony of the third degree. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person convicted of battery upon a law enforcement officer committed in furtherance of a riot or an aggravated riot prohibited under s. 870.01 shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of 6 months.
In the case of aggravated assault, from a felony of the third degree to a felony of the second degree. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person convicted of aggravated assault upon a law enforcement officer shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of 3 years.
In the case of aggravated battery, from a felony of the second degree to a felony of the first degree. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person convicted of aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of 5 years.
Additionally, the bill ramps up penalties against local governments that interfere with law enforcement quelling riots, as has been seen in Democrat-run cities such as Portland over the course of the last year. It also allows for an appeal process in the event of cities or counties attempting to reduce local police budgets.
DeSantis’s move comes as civil unrest continues to materialize across the country with seeming support from some Democrat politicians, such as Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who participated in a protest outside the police station in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, over the weekend.
During her remarks, she urged people to take to the streets, “stay” in the streets, and “get more confrontational.”
“We’re looking for a guilty verdict,” Waters said. “And we’re looking to see if all of the talk that took place and has been taking place after they saw what happened to George Floyd, if nothing does not happen, then we know that we’ve got to not only stay in the street, but we’ve got to fight for justice.”
“But I am very hopeful, and I hope we are going to get a verdict that says ‘guilty, guilty, guilty.’ If we don’t, we cannot go away,” she continued, adding, “We’ve got to stay on the street and we’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure they know we mean business.”