BLM Tampa plans march, rally in response to Florida's new anti-riot law

Days after Governor Ron DeSantis signed Florida's anti-riot bill into law, which stiffens penalties for those who participate in violent protests and riots, Black Lives Matter: Tampa plans to be out, peacefully marching in the streets. 

Their main message is simply that they are still marching and will continue to express themselves without fear of arrest or prosecution.

"We wanted to give people an opportunity to express themselves," said BLM Tampa co-founder Donna Davis. "We want people to understand that there are those who want us to be afraid and we cannot be afraid."

Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Cyrus Green Park at 2101 East Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Tampa, they're planning a solidarity march and rally in response to HB1 as well as the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin.

"In the background of people wanting to take to the streets, there is concern about what that's going to look like under the new legislation," Davis said.

Gov. DeSantis touts Florida's law as the strongest anti-rioting and pro-police legislation in the country. It creates a new crime called "mob intimidation," stiffening penalties for crimes that occur during violent protests and riots.

"If you riot, if you loot, if you harm others, particularly if you harm a law enforcement officer during one of these violent assemblies, you are going to jail," DeSantis said Monday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis sued over Florida's new 'anti-riot' law

A social justice group has filed a lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and others two days after the Republican signed a bill to create tougher penalties for people who participate in violent protests.

Critics like the ACLU worry the law is too broad, making it easy to arrest any protester, regardless of their role. 

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Police Chief Brian Dugan said at Tuesday night's Community Task Force on Policing that arrests are not their goal.

"We, as an agency, are still going to give everybody an opportunity to express their First Amendment rights," Dugan said. "I don't see it affecting a whole lot of things."

"It is the goal of the city to ensure that there will never be any cases to investigate," Castor said, "that... everyone will be able to express themselves in a very peaceful manner, whatever the viewpoint may be."

But fear of arrest may deter some from coming out.

"Our response to being told that we're going to be criminalized for dissent, which is a part of our founding charters, to dissent," Davis said.

In addition to medics and guides keeping participants safe and on course, organizers encourage people to film and document any interactions that could be trouble for their own protection.

"When they see us in the streets on Saturday, they should say these people are patriots, these people are maintaining our democracy," Davis said, "these people are the hope for the restoration of our torn democracy, and they should be happy."

State Attorney Andrew Warren has called the bill unconstitutional. Regarding future protests, he told FOX 13, "As we’ve always done, we will prosecute people who commit acts of violence and destruction -- but we won’t be prosecuting peaceful protesters, even though the law now allows us to."