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‘He Needs to Address the Source’: Black Leaders Hit Back After Florida’s Governor Proposes Bill to Crack Down on ‘Violent’ Protests

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is pushing a bill that cracks down on what he considers violent protests in the state of Florida. Punishments could go as far as a felony on your record, serious jail time or even the loss of your unemployment checks. 

“We are not going to permit localities to defund the police,” explained DeSantis at a Sept. 21 news conference in Winter Haven, Florida. “If you defund the police then the state is going to defund any grants or aids coming to you.”

The governor introduced a long list of penalties for those who organize, fund or participate in any protest that becomes violent. 

“We are going to impose criminal penalties for violent or disorderly assemblies; that will be a third-degree felony,” said DeSantis. “We will also require a felony if you block any of the roadways; it’s not fair to motorists that get caught up in that. There will also be a prohibition for destroying property, including monuments.” 

The legislative proposal is called The Combating Violence Disorder, Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act. Shortly after its announcement, some took to social media to express their discontent. 

“Disappointing is what keeps coming to mind,” said Michele Rayner, who serves as a state representative-elect for Florida House District 70. “I’m also a civil rights attorney so, I train people on what their rights are. Guess what? People have the right to peacefully protest, what is not a right is for the government to try to limit that.” 

Rayner told Atlanta Black Star that the governor’s bill does not address America’s biggest crisis. 

“We have a public health crisis that is touching every area of our lives; health care, unemployment, small businesses are suffering.” 

It’s a sentiment Clayton Cowart, president of the Poor Minority Justice Association, shares.

“I feel that the bill that the governor proposes does not address the real issue or the real problem,” said Cowart. “Rioting and protesting are a reaction to bad policing. If the governor really wants to solve the problem he needs to address the source.” 

Cowart expressed to Atlanta Black Star that Black people are not protected in America. “We don’t get justice if we do right, and we don’t get justice if we do wrong.

“The most offensive thing is that the governor seeks to protect monuments and statues, which are bronze and concrete, but when it comes down to the people that are being treated wrong, there’s nothing for their safety or protection.”

DeSantis and state Republican leaders said the legislation will be their top priority for the next legislative session. 

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