Anti-riot bill protest planned for Tallahassee

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 3:34 PM CST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS DESK) - Nineteen people arrested for a protest at the state Capitol last September are taking a stand against anti-rioting legislation being pushed by the Governor and legislative leaders. The 19 contend they were part of a peaceful protest and say the legislation would only give police more power to shut down free speech.

It was a clear September Saturday when 100 protestors were met by an estimated 300 police at the Capitol. There was no permit for the event. Protestors were angry over the deaths of three people at the hands of police over two months.

Nineteen were arrested.

Nearly six months later, those arrested worry anti-riot legislation will shut down future protests.

“That legislation would just give them further power to do the same thing to even more people,” Ben Grant, who was charged with a felony, said. “To ruin the lives of people who decide to speak out.”

Passing the tough anti-riot legislation remains a top priority of the Governor and Legislative leaders, so there’ll be no backing down.

“I think we have to strong law enforcement, and I think we need to have strong laws that protect them to do their job,” Senate President Wilton Simpson, Republican from Pasco County, said.

The bill would not allow bond for suspects until they’ve seen a judge, imposes tough penalties for crimes during mob action, and takes away damage recovery from someone participating in a riot.

Grant says he would still be in jail six months later if the bill were already law.

“They did not need that legislation. They got exactly what they wanted. They arrested a bunch of people, they successfully shut down our protests that day, and have stifled us since,” Grant said.

Protestors say they will be back at the Capitol next Tuesday, the first day of the legislative session, to protest the anti-riot pro-police legislation.

The bill also has provisions to punish local governments for defunding police or interfering with their ability to uphold the law. The House bill has already cleared one of its three committees.