WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a televised press conference for the passage of a new “anti-riot” law, Florida’s Polk County sheriff had a message for what he said were the “millions and millions” of new residents moving into the state: “Welcome to Florida. But don’t register to vote and vote the stupid way you did up north. You’ll get what they got.”
Standing next to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Sheriff Grady Judd applauded the state’s passage of House Bill 1, an “anti-riot” law that Democrats say would stifle the First Amendment right to protest and is written broadly to allow police significant leeway to arrest and convict protestors. DeSantis has claimed the bill is to protect “law and order” due to rising protests after the police killing of George Floyd, despite admitting that in Florida, the vast majority of those protests have been peaceful. Still, he argues this legislation — which creates more criminal penalties on protestor behavior and discourages local jurisdictions from choosing to reduce their police budgets by making local governments financially viable for property damage that occurs during riots — is a necessary step to prevent violent protests from potentially occurring in the future.
All Democrats in the state Senate voted against the legislation. Sen. Tina Polsky (D) argued the bill was a partisan move aimed at “silencing dissent.” They were joined by one Republican.