‘This is a fascist bill’: Protestors decry anti-riot bill in front of state Capitol

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 6:53 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - As lawmakers go to work inside the state Capitol, protestors from all over the state gathered outside of it Tuesday afternoon, crying foul over one bill in particular: House Bill 1.

It’s the controversial Anti-Riot bill proposed by Governor Ron DeSantis, who highlighted its importance in his State of the State address on Tuesday.

But some aren’t buying it.

At least a dozen speakers took to the microphone in a rally that lasted just over two hours Tuesday. Everyone who spoke, from community organizers to state representatives, says the bill is unconstitutional.

The bill would elevate penalties for certain crimes committed during a protest-turned-riot, including obstructing traffic for an unpermitted march.

Many who were protesting on Tuesday were the same ones in the streets last summer and argue the bill is a direct response to their movement.

Tallahassee Community Action Committee President Regina Joseph are among those calling for the bill to die.

“The people in this building, they work for you, not the other way around,” Joseph said. “It is our duty, our obligation to fight against this bill. This is a fascist bill.”

Joseph also sharing her experience on September 5: She’s one of the original Tally 14 protesters arrested that day in front of the Capitol.

“They’re trying to oppress us,” she said. “Is it going to work? No!”

One state representative from St. Petersburg, Michele Raynor, argued the bill was not drafted in good faith.

“This bill is really to attack Black and Brown folks, this bill is to silence those who are in defense of Black and Brown lives,” she said to the crowd.

Nastassia Janvier is a FSU student active in student government. She said she took to the streets to protest frequently last summer.

“We feel like we’re being silenced,” she said. Janvier said Tuesday’s rally was needed to make sure future rallies can still take place.

“For them to say no, the way you’re doing it is not the right way - it’s baffling,” she said.

In his speech on Tuesday, DeSantis called the bill one of the strongest anti-rioting, pro law enforcement reform in the nation.

“Florida is - and must remain- a state dedicated to law and order,” he said.

Proponents of the bill argue it would still protect peaceful, permitted protests. But those against it point to added penalties for unpermitted protesters obstructing traffic as signs the legislation could get abused.

The bill also would penalize cities who try to take funding away from law enforcement agencies. Gov. DeSantis said it’s a measure to keep citizens safe. Those at the rally Tuesday say it restricts cities from making necessary changes.

House Bill One faces its second of three committees on Wednesday.

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