(Natural News) Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has drafted “anti-mob” legislation that will expand the coverage of the state’s Stand Your Ground law to allow any armed residents to shoot at suspected looters who are threatening businesses.
The draft legislation is a follow-up to a pledge the governor made back in September to create a law that will deter rioters and other agitators from staging violent and disorderly assemblies.
The pledge was made following DeSantis’ fear that the massive engineered rioting organized by Antifa and Black Lives Matter in other states might make its way to Florida. (Related: Gov. DeSantis proposes new law introducing harsh punishments for rioters, riot organizers and their financiers.)
Draft anti-mob legislation enhances punishments for rioters and looters
The draft anti-mob legislation will expand the list of “forcible felonies” under Florida’s self-defense law. It will allow armed residents to prevent “violent and disorderly assemblies” by providing them with enough legal room to fire upon any person who is part of a mob and engaged in the “interruption or impairment” of a business. This interruption or impairment of a business is described as looting or burglary occurring within 500 feet of a “violent or disorderly assembly.”
DeSantis’ proposed legislation will also enhance criminal penalties for people who may not be engaged in looting themselves but are part of a “violent or disorderly assembly.” It makes blocking traffic during a demonstration a third-degree felony. In addition, it also provides legal immunity to drivers who kill or injure protesters engaged in blocking traffic.
The new legislation will also allow the state government to withhold state funding from local governments who reduce the budgets of their law enforcement agencies.
Many other sections of the draft legislation will enhance criminal penalties for people who are a part of violent or disorderly assemblies.
A draft of the proposed legislation, currently titled the “anti-mob legislation draft,” has been sent to the state’s Senate Committee on Criminal Justice and the House Judiciary Committee.
Liberal prosecutors and Florida Democrats oppose measure
The proposed legislation has already seen some pushback from both Florida Democrats and state prosecutors.
“[The legislation] allows for vigilantes to justify their actions,” said former Miami-Dade County prosecutor Denise Georges, who has experience handling Stand Your Ground cases.
“It also allows for death to be the punishment for a property crime – and that is a cruel and unusual punishment. We cannot live in a lawless society where taking a life is done so casually and recklessly.”
Aubrey Webb, another former Miami-Dade prosecutor, is warning against passing the bill without major revisions.
“It dangerously gives armed private citizens power to kill as they subjectively determine what constitutes ‘criminal mischief’ that interferes with a business,” said Webb. “The Boston Tea Party members would have been lawfully shot under Florida’s law.”
Florida Democrats have called DeSantis’ proposed legislation an “election stunt,” “unconstitutional” and a non-issue that should not be prioritized in the middle of a pandemic.
“It’s clear that the Trump beauty pageant is still going on with governors and senators, who all want to be the next Trump – and the governor is clearly a very good contestant,” said Dan Gelber, mayor of Miami Beach and former Democratic state legislator.
Gelber, a critic of the state’s original Stand Your Ground law, said that the governor’s proposed legislation will incite violence.
Civil rights attorney and former deputy director of the Florida American Civil Liberties Union Melba Pearson fears that the bill will be used to crack down on the First Amendment rights of Antifa and Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
“These are not mobs running around the street,” she said. “People are using their First Amendment rights. This is a democracy.”