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Florida’s Proposed War on Protest

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While the protests in Florida have generally been peaceful, Governor DeSantis is making proposals that are clearly aimed at intimidating protestors and allowing the legal suppression of constitutional rights. One key part of the proposal is that crimes most commonly committed by protestors be increased from misdemeanors to felonies. These include obstructing traffic during an unpermitted protest and participating in a protest that involved property damage or “harassment.” Felony convictions are not only far more serious but can also impose life-long penalties on citizens. There are also specific proposals that seem to run counter to basic rights and proportionality in sentencing: throwing an object at a police officer would result in a minimum six months in jail, people arrested at a protest would be denied bail and would effectively be presumed guilty until they could prove they were not a danger. There are two proposals that are even more worrisome. One is a proposal that a motorist  would be indemnified if they caused “death to a person who obstructs or interferes with the regular flow of vehicular traffic.” The fact that drivers  hit protesters 66 times between May 27 and July 9 2020 and at least 19 may have been malicious. There have been cases in which drivers have hit and killed protestors and have been charged with homicide. This law would not, of course, apply to sports fans or other folks obstructing or interfering with the regular flow of vehicle traffic—it specifically singles out protestors. A such, it seems clear this is designed to intimate protestors by effectively legalizing violence against them. Another proposal is that racketeering laws could be used against protestors. One concern is that this would allow the state of Florida to charge everyone involved with a protest for being part of a criminal conspiracy. With this in place as a law, a few people who acted violently could suddenly transform peaceful protestors around them into criminals.. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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