Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Hallmark Anti-Rioting Legislation Taking Unapologetic Stand for

Public Safety
 Legislative leaders and law enforcement officials from across the state applaud the passage of House Bill 1 to prevent mob violence, support peaceful protest and stand with our law enforcement.

Winter Haven, Fla. – Today, during a press conference at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Governor Ron DeSantis was joined by legislative leadership and law enforcement officials from across the state to sign the “Combating Public Disorder Act” into law. The bill, HB 1, takes a robust approach to uphold the rule of law, stand with those serving in law enforcement and enforce Florida’s zero tolerance policy for violent and disorderly assemblies. The bill comes in the wake of ongoing violence, rioting and other forms of civil unrest throughout the United States over the last two years.

Governor Ron DeSantis said, “In Florida, we are taking an unapologetic stand for the rule of law and public safety.  We are holding those who incite violence in our communities accountable, supporting our law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to keep us safe and protecting Floridians from the chaos of mob violence. We’re also putting an end to the bullying and intimidation tactics of the radical left by criminalizing doxing and requiring restitution for damaging memorials and monuments by rioters. I am proud to sign this bill into law and appreciate the diligence of our elected leaders in the state legislature, especially Senator Stargel, Senator Burgess, Representative Fernandez-Barquin, Representative Perez and Representative Byrd, for getting this proposal to my desk so swiftly.”

First announced by Governor DeSantis in September 2020, the proposed legislation included new criminal offenses and increased penalties for individuals who are participants in violent or disorderly assemblies, while simultaneously guarding the Constitutionally protected First Amendment right to peaceably assemble.

House Bill 1, the “Combating Public Disorder Act”, increases penalties for existing crimes committed during a violent assembly, and protects the communities’ law enforcement officers, and victims of these types of acts. The bill also creates specific crimes for mob intimidation and cyber intimidation to ensure that Florida will not be a welcoming place for those wishing to impose their will on innocent civilians and law enforcement by way of mob mentality. Crimes of mob intimidation and cyber intimidation both will become 1st-degree misdemeanors.

Florida will not tolerate the destruction and demolition of memorials and historic properties by angry mobs. The Combating Public Disorder Act also creates new penalties for destroying monuments and historic property, the consequences of which include of a 2nd-degree felony and paying restitution for the repairing or replacing of the memorial. The bill is also increasing penalties and rankings for many of these offenses like assault, battery, battery on a law enforcement officer, criminal mischief, burglary, and theft when these crimes are committed during or in furtherance of a riot.

Legislative leaders and Cabinet officials from across the state joined Governor DeSantis to applaud the passage of HB1. Here is what they are saying …

Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez said, “Our administration believes there is a fine line between peaceful protest and violence. We have seen our nation’s communities ravaged by rage, anger, rioting and chaos. Our democracy cannot afford to blur the lines between peaceful assembly and violence. We applaud the Florida legislature for passing a historic bill that will protect the people’s Constitutional rights and liberties, safeguard our communities and will not turn a blind eye to criminal acts.”

Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson said, “Our constitutional right to protest has played a critical role in the great history of our democracy. We will defend the right of every Floridian to peacefully protest. However, you can’t assault a police officer. You can’t destroy property. No matter who you are, or what the cause. This good bill strengthens our state laws to increase penalties for bad actors who turn otherwise peaceful and constitutional protests into violent riots where law enforcement officers are attacked and property destroyed. I am proud to stand with our Governor to make it clear that peaceful protests are welcome, but violent, destructive mobs will not be tolerated in Florida.”

Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls said, “There is nothing more important to me than protecting people and their property and defending our law enforcement officers. And there has been no Governor in America bolder than Governor Ron DeSantis, and for that, I commend him. Thank you to Representative Juan Fernandez-Barquin and his colleagues who championed this bill through the House, Senate President Simpson and our Senate partners, and Governor DeSantis, whose vision and signature today made this the law of the land. Today we are standing up to mob violence and standing behind our law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to protect and serve.”

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “We ask law enforcement officers to take an oath to protect and serve. We, as leaders, in turn have a responsibility to protect them as they ensure order and safety in the communities they serve.  We respect the right of people to peaceably assemble and make their views known on issues of public policy, but rioting, violence and destruction of property cannot and will not be tolerated in Florida. I want to thank Governor DeSantis and our great legislative leaders for taking steps to prevent the chaos and destruction happening in other parts of the country from gaining a foothold in Florida.”

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said, “Governor Ron DeSantis has done it once again. As citizens and businesses flee states like California and New York for sunny Florida, the Governor has fired off another message to the rest of the world that Florida will put the safety of its citizens first and foremost. We’ve watched cities like Portland, New York, Seattle, and Chicago burn because politicians turned their backs on law enforcement. Luckily, Governor DeSantis’ Florida is different from the Portlands of the world because we love and appreciate our law enforcement community. Unfortunately, as anti-law and anti-law enforcement sentiments are spilling out to certain portions of the nation, Florida has had to make sure our laws are keeping up with the times to keep our communities safe. This law makes it clear that civil protests are not the same as violent-destruction, and we’re thankful to the Governor and Legislature for putting this commonsense idea into action.”

Representative Juan Fernandez-Barquin, R-Miami, Sponsor of House Bill 1 said, “My bill protects peaceful protestors, innocent residents, private property and law enforcement. It stiffens penalties for looters and rioters and preserves our First Amendment rights by clearly differentiating between a rioter and peaceful protestor.”

Senator Danny Burgess said, “As a Father, Soldier, and Florida Senator, I took an oath to protect our First Amendment rights and will always continue to do so. This bill protects the 1st Amendment Rights we all cherish – rights generations of Americans have fought and died to protect. This bill makes it clear that the Florida Legislature and our Governor stand side by side with protestors who are peaceful and trying to enact meaningful change. We stand side by side with law enforcement who risk their lives every day to protect our communities. Most importantly, we stand side by side with Floridians across our state who like me were rendered speechless watching U.S. soldiers inside our nation’s Capital protect us from ourselves. I am grateful to Governor DeSantis for signing this legislation today, because here in Florida criminals who seek to thwart peaceful protests by willfully inciting violence, attacking law enforcement and destroying public or private property will be held accountable.”

Senator Kelli Stargel said, “As a mother of children who have served this country in our Armed Forces and defended the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and as a citizen who has participated in many peaceful protests over the years, I am grateful to the Legislature and our Governor for their work to protect the rights of protestors whose worthwhile efforts to make their voices heard are drowned out when peaceful protests turn into violent attacks on law enforcement and property. We are honored to have our Governor here in Polk Country today to sign critical legislation that safeguards our First Amendment right to protest, while enhancing public safety by giving law enforcement the tools they need to protect our communities.”

Representative Cord Byrd said, “HB 1 strikes the right balance between protecting the constitutional right to peaceably assemble while punishing those who sow discord and anarchy.  HB 1 sends a strong message that Florida will not wait for its cities to burn before taking action to protect her citizens.”

Representative Danny Perez said, “With the signing of HB 1, we are making it abundantly clear that rioting and looting will never be tolerated in Florida. I am proud to join Governor DeSantis and my colleagues in the Legislature in standing for law and order.”

In addition to legislative leaders, law enforcement officials and representatives from across the state applauded the Governor’s leadership to pass House Bill 1 and sign it into law. Here is what law enforcement officials are saying …

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said, “I applaud House Speaker Sprowls, Senate President Simpson, and Governor DeSantis for their leadership to keep Floridians and visitors to Florida safe by passing this important legislation. Nothing else matters if you and your children aren’t safe. This law represents Florida’s commitment to public order and creating a safe place for people to express their constitutional right to free speech.”

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said, “Government’s one and only responsibility is to protect its citizens and in a state that stands for law and order, House Bill 1 does exactly that!! From day one, Governor DeSantis has stood shoulder to shoulder with law enforcement to protect our citizens and this bill is another perfect example of his commitment to make certain that Florida is the safest state in the country!!  The bill combats public disorder and holds those accountable who put others lives and property at risk through violent acts and destruction. Structured to protect free speech and peaceful protest, House Bill 1 gives strong teeth to law enforcement and prosecutors to bring criminal charges against those who commit acts of violence, looting, destruction, and intimidation during a public disturbance. Championed by Governor DeSantis, House Bill 1 makes certain that our citizens, our cops, and our Constitution are protected!!”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, “HB1 is important to the rule of law and effective public safety across Florida. Thanks to Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature, law enforcement will now have effective tools to hold people accountable who are not peacefully protesting, but rather are engaging in lawless behavior that threatens the safety of others.”

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said, “I fully support Governor DeSantis and his commitment to law and order in the State of Florida; I have taken a zero-tolerance stance against rioting or any type of violence within my county. While I completely support the citizens right to peacefully assemble, any type of public endangerment or rioting will be shut down immediately, and those responsible will be incarcerated. I could not be more proud of our great Governor.”

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said, “I commend Governor DeSantis and his strong leadership because he truly knows how to protect this great State of ours. This bill becoming a law is a perfect example of his passion of ensuring that the hard working, law abiding citizens and their property is and will be protected. This law will separate the law-abiding citizen exercising their Constitutional Rights from the individual who is committing crimes.  Anyone who opposes or fears this law is an individual who cares more about a criminal and criminal acts rather than law and order.”

Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams said, “I am very pleased that our Governor has demonstrated yet again his support for law enforcement in signing House Bill 1 – the Anti-Riot Bill. Jacksonville, along with the rest of the state is ready to work together to build stronger bridges of trust and cooperation while maintaining public safety. Public Safety is paramount for everyone in Florida – our families, our neighbors and our businesses.”

Gilchrist County Sheriff and President of the Florida Sheriffs Association Bobby Schultz said, “Destroying property, harassing, and threatening Floridians, or attacking law enforcement officers is unacceptable in a civil society; Sheriffs will defend every citizen’s right to peacefully protest. HB 1 further supports this by removing the criminal element that attempts to take these peaceful events and turn them violent.”

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen said, “I am grateful for Governor Ron DeSantis’ leadership on HB1. Under Governor DeSantis, Florida has shown what it means to be a national model by bolstering our law enforcement community with the tools it needs to protect our citizens. The anti-riot bill makes Florida safer and I’m proud to stand with Governor DeSantis on this important legislation.”

Florida Highway Patrol Colonel Gene Spaulding said, “Thanks to the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, HB 1 will help our communities exercise their constitutional rights peacefully while upholding the rule of law and furthers Florida’s commitment to supporting and protecting our dedicated law enforcement officers.”

Colonel Curtis Brown, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said, “We want to thank Governor DeSantis for his leadership in keeping Floridians safe, we stand behind the Governor and the Legislature on this important issue.”

Satellite Beach Police Chief and President of the Florida Police Chiefs Association Jeff Pearson said, “On behalf of the Florida Police Chiefs Association and over 900 law enforcement executives, we applaud Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for their unwavering support for Florida’s law enforcement and the rule of law. Peaceful protest is a defining hallmark of our society, but violent protests endanger lives and threaten the rights of every other citizen we are sworn to protect. With Governor DeSantis’ leadership, House Bill 1 will help law enforcement better protect the lives and property of every Floridian, and ensure that peaceful protestors can safely exercise their constitutional rights without the threat of having their voices hijacked by the violent actions of others.”

Florida Police Benevolent Association President John Kazanjian said, “On behalf of the thousands of brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe, the Florida PBA applauds Governor Ron DeSantis for signing into law, the ‘Anti- Riot Bill.’ This important legislation will increase penalties for assault, battery, burglary and theft, and battery against a law enforcement officer during a riot, and prohibits the damaging or defacing of memorials or historic property. This is a win for public safety in the State of Florida and for our law enforcement officers, who maintain public safety every day.”

Florida State Fraternal Order of Police President Robert Jenkins said, “The Fraternal Order of Police wants to thank Governor DeSantis for HB 1. The  FOP believes this bill allows Law Enforcement the ability to act appropriately and swiftly to protect the citizenry, and property of this State, but more importantly those persons wishing to exercise their constitutional right of free speech peacefully. The FOP wants to thank Governor DeSantis not only for his continued support of Law Enforcement but his continued leadership during the pandemic this past year.”

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