First hearing set for lawsuit over Florida's new anti-riot bill

First hearing set for lawsuit over Florida's new anti-riot bill
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A hearing is set for a lawsuit challenging Florida's new anti-riot bill, H.B.1, the first legal test for the legislation that Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Memo: Media obsess over Trump's past as he eyes comeback DeSantis proposes civilian Florida State Guard military force he would control Haley hits the stump in South Carolina MORE (R) said will combat disorder. 

The hearing is set for Aug. 30, and will be held in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, WMNF reported. Chief Judge Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerFormer GOP Rep. Mark Walker fielding calls about dropping NC Senate bid, running for House Internal poll shows McCrory with double-digit lead in North Carolina GOP Senate primary We are all paying for DeSantis' defiance of the First Amendment MORE will hear from the plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Black Collective, NAACP and Dream Defenders, the radio station reported. 

The organizations sued DeSantis, state Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) and others in May over whether a new bill that aimed at “combating public disorder” was constitutional. 


The bill, which DeSantis signed in April, includes granting civil legal immunity to people who drive through roads and cut protesters off, requiring that cities seek permission from the state before they reduce their police budget. The bill also stipulates that protesters who are arrested during a riot cannot post bail until after after their first court date. 

The bill was signed into law by the governor almost a year after George Floyd was killed by former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd's death, which was caught on video by a young bystander, prompted nationwide protests over police brutality that lasted through the summer of 2020. 

The majority of the protests were peaceful, but some of them descended into violence. 

In April, Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder and manslaughter, he was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison. 

“We put out a vision for the State to maintain being a law and order state,” DeSantis said in April, according to the radio station. “We saw really unprecedented disorder and rioting throughout the summer of 2020. And we said that’s not gonna happen here in the state of Florida.”

Last week, the organizations suing Florida officials filed a motion in support of a preliminary injunction against Section 15, WMNF reported.

Section 15 includes new classes of crimes and changes the definition of what a riot is, the radio station noted.

However, the motion argues that the definitions are vague saying “Section 15 provides Defendants discretion to subjectively interpret Section 15 and selectively arrest anyone willfully participating in a protest, if and where violence occurs, based solely on the intent and acts of others. Section 15 can thus be reasonably interpreted as a guilt-by association law incompatible with the First Amendment.”

In a statement, DeSantis' press secretary Christina Pushaw told The Hill that "HB 1 is an anti-riot law, not an anti-protest law."

"The legislation protects First Amendment freedoms, while ensuring that law enforcement professionals are empowered to use their discretion to maintain public safety. The Governor has always urged all Floridians exercising their right to protest, to make their voices heard peacefully and lawfully," Pushaw said.

"There is a clear difference between a riot and a peaceful protest. A riot is, by legal definition, violent," she continued and cited a Florida statute that defined rioting.

The Hill has reached out to Moody’s office for comment.

Updated 4:57 p.m.