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Florida House Advances Gov. DeSantis' Protest Bill

Ron DeSantis
John Raoux
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at Universal Studios Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Legislation increasing penalties for violent protesters passed its first stop in the House Wednesday on a party-line vote. Democrats argue the measure is targeted at the Black Lives Matter movement. Rep. Kaylee Tuck (R-Sebring) pushes against that characterization.

“Every American has the right to peacefully protests in whatever they believe in," said Tuck. "But no American has the right to violently riot. The bill provides the necessary tools to prosecute those who intend to commit violent and unlawful acts mob intimidation and destroy property.”

The bill creates a new second-degree felony for aggravated rioting that comes with a 15-year sentence. It would apply to people in groups of nine or more who cause property damage above $5,000. Opponents worry the charge could be applied to bystanders who are peacefully protesting. Governor Ron DeSantis proposed the bill in the midst of nationwide social justice protests this summer.