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Tallahassee leaders are suing Florida over the anti-riot law and its encroachment on home rule

America Protests Miami
Lynne Sladky
/
AP
A woman is draped with a cloth reading Black Lives Matter during a protest June 2, 2020, in Miami. Protests were held throughout the country over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020.

Florida lawmakers passed legislation last spring known as the anti-riot bill. It creates new crimes and strengthens penalties for violence or property damage during protests.

Now, the City of Tallahassee is joining municipalities around the state in launching a legal challenge to the law.

City attorney Cassandra Jackson says the main point of contention is a provision giving the governor “authority to alter the budgets of local governments should they reduce their law enforcements budgets.”

In other words, the governor can step in and make changes if the Tallahassee City Commission decides to reduce funding to the police department.

“This law is largely a solution looking for a problem,” said Commissioner Jeremy Matlow, referring to the law as an overreach of state government. “Unfortunately, in its search for a problem it has overstepped its boundaries into our local control of our budget.”

Matlow went on to say that while he supports the lawsuit, he also wants to make sure the rights of peaceful protesters are protected.

The law was championed by Governor Ron DeSantis following last year’s Black Lives Matter movement. Nationwide protests were sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Today would have been Floyd's 48th birthday.

“We’re here at the seat of government for the state of Florida, and the one who made this (law) happen lives here,” said Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox, referring to DeSantis. “So, I think that it is proper that we send a message to the rest of the state that we don’t think it’s okay either.”

Tallahassee and more than half a dozen municipalities have so far challenged the law because of its impact on home rule authority. Attorneys for several nonprofit organizations are representing the city at no cost in the lawsuit.