Critics blast proposed protest legislation as unconstitutional violation of civil rights

The governor’s plan to crack down on violent protestors is getting a lot of flak from community activists and progressive lawmakers.

“These tactics are as about unconstitutional as it gets,” said Bacardi Jackson, an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“It is no more than an intimation tactic, to scare people into not exercising their right to free speech and public assembly,” Jackson said during one of several virtual events held Tuesday.

The governor revealed his “law and order” plan on Monday at the Polk Sheriff’s Office in Winter Haven.

“If you are involved in a violent or disorderly assembly and you harm somebody, if you throw a brick and hit a police officer, you’re going to jail,” Governor Ron DeSantis said.

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DeSantis also wants to defund communities that defund the police, crack down hard on people who destroy or topple monuments, and cut state benefits to people who commit a violent act during a demonstration.

Critics say the plan is unnecessary because the law already covers what his plan addresses.

“This is a total violation of our civil rights,” said Charlotte Davis of Let Your Voice Be Heard. “This is a total violation to our right to assemble peacefully.”

Critics see the plan as a political move aimed at distracting voters from other issues that they say he handled badly, like COVID-19.

“This policy is a distraction from Ron DeSantis’s failures as a governor,” said Ashley Green, of the Dream Defenders. “Rather than confronting a crumbling unemployment infrastructure, lack of access to health care, mounting housing crisis, and loss of life due to the pandemic.”

DeSantis says his plan is meant to protect peaceful demonstrators from professional troublemakers who are out to create chaos.

The plan is widely endorsed by law enforcement, including Polk Sheriff Grady Judd, who joined DeSantis during Monday’s announcement.