DeSantis Team Pushes Back After Establishment Media Smears Peaceful Cuba Protests: These Are ‘Not Riots’

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JULY 13: Protesters shut down part of the Palmetto Expressway as they show their support for the people in Cuba that have taken to the streets to protest on July 13, 2021 in Miami, Florida. On Sunday, thousands of Cubans took to the streets across the country …
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R-FL) office is pushing back after members of the establishment media, particularly in Florida, accused the governor of hypocrisy by asserting he is not using his anti-riot law to halt peaceful demonstrations in the state.

The Miami Herald’s editorial board published a piece Tuesday with a glaring headline loaded with suspicion: “DeSantis’ anti-riot law didn’t apply as Cuba protesters shut down a Miami-Dade road. Hmmm…”

“Florida’s misbegotten anti-riot law leaves even peaceful demonstrators subject to being arrested if a protest is arbitrarily deemed a ‘riot.’ The law explicitly makes blocking a highway a felony offense,” the board wrote.

“Worse, it gives civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters who are blocking a road — basically, encouraging haters to do just that,” it asserted.

The editorial board’s bitter diatribe followed peaceful demonstrations in the state as people stood in solidarity with thousands of Cubans who took to their own streets to protest the oppressive, communist regime.

One of the Florida demonstrations saw protesters blocking State Road 826 on Tuesday, prompting DeSantis critics to sound the alarm. But, as DeSantis’s office pointed out, protesters were compliant with local law enforcement, and that is exactly what the anti-riot law does — empowers local law enforcement. Demonstrators were not attacking police officers, charging vehicles, or defacing property, all of which served as hallmarks of the violent Black Lives Matter and Antifa protests that devastated communities across the country last year. Even ABC News recognized the crowd of demonstrators as “peaceful.”

However, the Miami Herald’s editorial board overlooked those factors and offered a suggested quote for the governor: “Nah, the Miami-Dade demonstrators seeking human rights in Cuba have nothing to fear from my anti-riot law. We created it to subdue Black folks seeking human rights in the United States.”

DeSantis signed Florida’s anti-riot bill in April, which effectively takes defunding the police “off the table” in Sunshine State. It also strengthens penalties for those who engage in lawless behavior during a riot. Authorities did not deem the peaceful protests seen in Florida as riots, and, notably, blocking highways was already an illegal act prior to the anti-riot law.

Further, the law explicitly defines a riot 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,” as Breitbart News detailed.

The law also increases penalties for assault or battery on first responders — something that did not occur at the Florida demonstration the Herald referenced, either.

Christina Pushaw, press secretary for DeSantis, told Breitbart News exclusively that the administration is going to continue to allow law enforcement to do their job, and emphasized that the demonstrations in Florida have been “peaceful protests,” not riots.

“We’re going to let law enforcement do their jobs, as always. We’ve also always urged protests to be peaceful. The demonstrations in Florida for freedom in Cuba have been peaceful protests, not riots,” Pushaw said, adding it is not the governor’s role to micromanage local law enforcement agencies.

“It is not the role of the Governor’s office to direct the Florida Highway Patrol, or any other law enforcement agency, to conduct their day-to-day jobs protecting and serving Floridians,” she added.

Breitbart News spoke to DeSantis after he signed the anti-riot bill in April — an action that followed sweeping calls from the left to defund police.

“The more blue an area is, the worse it’s governed. I mean it’s just a disaster what we’ve seen. It’s always been the case kind of in my lifetime, but I think in the last year, it’s been exacerbated between COVID [Chinese coronavirus] lockdowns and the rioting,” DeSantis told Breitbart News at the time.

“If you don’t stand up for law enforcement, you are going to have more crimes,” he said, explaining the law draws a line in the sand regarding defunding law enforcement.

“If they want to take money from law enforcement, I as governor and some of my Cabinet members here or there, we can veto that and make them restore the funding,” he said. “So that, I think that takes the defunding law enforcement off the table in Florida, which is huge.”

DeSantis also explained how the law enhanced criminal penalties for those engaging in lawless behavior during a riot.

“For example, if you throw a brick, if you’re in one of these violent assemblies, you throw a brick at a police officer, you’re getting arrested, you’re going to jail, and you’re staying there until your first appearance,” the governor said.

Notably, no bricks flew at the Florida demonstration the Herald referenced.
“They are revolting against a corrupt communist dictatorship that has ruled that island with an iron fist for over 60 years, that is responsible for death and destruction, not just on the island of Cuba but really throughout the Western Hemisphere, with their actions supporting other Marxist regimes,” DeSantis said of the protests in Cuba during a roundtable discussion Tuesday, dismissing any comparisons to the Black Lives Matter protests last year.

“These are people that are rebelling against a communist dictatorship,” he said, adding that the current Florida demonstrations are “fundamentally different than what we saw last summer.”

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