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The Florida Senate

Minority Office — Press Release


January 7, 2021

CONTACT: Michelle DeMarco, 850.487.5833

Democratic Lawmakers Condemn GOP Legislation Targeting Civil Rights Protests

Tallahassee —

Prominent Democratic lawmakers on Thursday sharply condemned Republican-backed legislation filed for the upcoming legislative session targeting protestors seeking protection of their civil rights.

The filing of the bills, SB484/HB1, a priority of Governor DeSantis, was announced shortly after the violent mayhem unfolded as Trump supporters stormed the nation’s Capitol, and touted as a response to the chaos.

“Any attempt to imply that this hateful and discriminatory legislation would be justly applied to the rioters in Washington DC is absurd. Make no mistake, the repackaging of these bills as a ‘response to the violent mobs’ of yesterday is a smoke screen for control measures aimed solely at peaceful protestors in Florida who sought nothing more than the basic civil rights and human dignity guaranteed to all people under the Constitution,” said Senator Bobby Powell, the current chairman of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. “These bills give safe harbor to deep prejudices held by people intent on retaining power, and diminishing the value of human life on the basis of skin color alone.”

Senator Perry Thurston agreed: “Before yesterday’s tragic events, Governor DeSantis was on national TV touting how seriously Florida takes law and order issues. ‘We’re obviously not going to tolerate a Minneapolis-type situation,’ he said. ‘I had the National Guard on standby, we were working with our localities…and you didn’t see here what you saw there.’  This bill is overkill, designed to quash free speech and peaceful assemblies by people of color. He and other supporters of this legislation had no similar concerns about enabling the sedition we witnessed yesterday. He and other supporters had no qualms about whipping the sentiments that drove the violence aimed squarely at our Republic and our democracy. They did so willingly, yet now claim this bill is intended to quash similar mobs. This bill is intended to quash only one ‘mob,’ and it’s not the one we witnessed yesterday.”

Echoing their Senate colleagues, House Democratic Leader Bobby DuBose, and Representative Fentrice Driskell likewise condemned the Republican use of yesterday’s insurrection as an excuse to clamp down on the exercise of free speech in Florida.

“This legislation turns the basic rights of peaceful protest and dissent on their heads,” said Leader DuBose. “It’s a heavy-handed, reactionary bill aimed primarily at non-violent protestors marching on behalf of not only all those whose lives were taken at the hands of rogue police officers, but all those denied equal justice under our criminal justice system. The push for this bill started long before the insurrection in Washington yesterday, and has at its core the ongoing and deep-rooted repression of civil rights.”

“Florida’s criminal justice code already addresses violent protests,” said Representative Driskell. “We have tough, existing punishments on the books and the ability to dispense them, a big part of the reason for the governor’s assurances on national TV that we’re already a ‘law and order’ state. Yet this legislation goes far beyond that. Republican leadership ignored the fact that there was no rioting or mob violence in Florida during the protests of last year. The premise that this legislation is somehow critical to protecting the citizens of Florida and the law enforcement officers who safeguard them is a disingenuous attack on the intelligence of Floridians and an affront to those who marched against hatred and systemic racism.  If public safety truly is the legislation's intent, Republican leadership should begin with a closer examination of their own complicity in fanning the flames that led to yesterday’s attack.”