Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Proposes New Anti-Looting Law.

From the Miami Herald:

Gov. Ron DeSantis has drafted “anti-mob” legislation that would expand Florida’s Stand Your Ground law — a move that critics say will allow armed citizens to shoot suspected looters or anyone engaged in “criminal mischief” that disrupts a business.

Lawyers say it’s just one of the many troubling aspects of the draft bill being pushed by the Republican governor in response to police-brutality protests that erupted across Florida and the United States this summer.

“It allows for vigilantes to justify their actions,” said Denise Georges, a former Miami-Dade County prosecutor who had handled Stand Your Ground cases. “It also allows for death to be the punishment for a property crime — and that is cruel and unusual punishment. We cannot live in a lawless society where taking a life is done so casually and recklessly.”

The New York Post goes gives more details:

It also specifically allows force against those looting, which the draft defines as burglary within 500 feet of a “violent or disorderly assembly.”

DeSantis also wants to make it a third-degree felony to block traffic during a protest — and offer immunity to drivers who accidentally kill or injure protesters who do so, according to the Herald.

Numerous other sections enhance criminal penalties for people involved in “violent or disorderly assemblies,” and withholds state funds from local governments that cut law enforcement funding, the report said.

Complete details are sketchy as there has been no official filing of the proposed law.

As you can imagine, there are people that are against this proposal as they claim it violates the First Amendment and the right to protest.

The “right to protest” does not mean the right riot and loot. In fact, the First Amendment clarifies this very point that protests are to be peaceful:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. (emphasis ours)

What DeSantis is trying to address is the destruction of property by people who are not exercising any right.

We can think of several ways to protect the rights of people to protest as well as protect people’s property in a business. Both involve two things.

First is a police presence that does not allow for unlawful behavior. If people start to riot and loot, arrests or aggressive action should be taken. Otherwise, people will take to their property to defend it.

We saw something similar to that in 1992 during the LA riots after the Rodney King incident where people began to target and attack Korean businesses in what was called “Koreatown.” Ironically, the Korean businesses were attacked because of them being Korean which means you had looters and rioters who supposedly were “protesting” racial injustice targeting another race.

With no response or help from the police and fire departments which allowed Korean businesses to be burned to the ground, the Koreans banded together and formed what was later known as “Rooftop Koreans.” These openly armed men and women made their presence know to people coming into the area showing with force that if you came to riot and loot, be prepared to be shot.

When governments fail to protect the property of people, people will protect it themselves.

Secondly, far too often rioters and looters are given mere slaps on the wrist by the courts. This means that rioters and looters that are caught, don’t pay any real consequences for their actions. In both Seattle and Portland, despite widespread violence, looting and rioting, people that were arrested were let go.

In 2015, after the arrest and death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, MD, rioters and looters took to the streets to “protest” by breaking into stores, looting the goods within those stores, and then setting the stores on fire.

The Mayor of Baltimore at the time ordered police not to interfere with the rioters.

When it was all said and done, store owners decided to sue the City of Baltimore for allowing the damage and theft of goods.

Quietly, and out of the light of press releases and public announcements, the City began to settle with merchants, paying them for the goods, lost wages, etc., with tax dollars.

This means that the City was willing to take money out of law abiding citizens to pay for the illegal acts of others.

When people look at the looting and rioting, they seem almost to be detached from it because it doesn’t seem to affect them directly. Of course, that notion went away when residents got a much higher tax bill the next year.

The bottom line is that if government won’t protect the property of people, people should have the right to protect it themselves.

What has struck us is the attack on this proposed bill – a bill that has not yet been officially proposed.

Melba Pearson, a civil-rights attorney and former deputy director of Florida’s American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill is “designed to tamp down on First Amendment rights of protesters.” She said even the title, “anti-mob,” is misleading — Florida did not have large-scale clashes between police and protesters like other states.

“These are not mobs running around the street. People are using their First Amendment rights. This is a democracy, lest some in Tallahassee forget,” said Pearson, a former Miami-Dade prosecutor.

Pearson called the proposed bill “over-broad and will have a chilling effect on free speech.”

The bill does not touch the rights of citizens to engage in First Amendment protected activities. Furthermore, as a former Miami-Dade prosecutor, Pearson should read the newspapers:

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – What started as a peaceful protest in Miami by people demanding justice for George Floyd in Minneapolis, turned violent several hours after it started.

The demonstration started around 3:00 p.m. near Bayfront Park but the protesters took it on the road to I-95, where the large crowd walking down the highway, forced the closure of all lanes of traffic on Saturday afternoon near Miami Police Department Headquarters.

Eventually, some people in the crowd marched down the exit ramp to gather outside police headquarters.

As night fell, it became chaotic and police used tear gas and a mandatory dispersal order to thin the crowd.

Protesters set fire to several cars including police cars.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was a quiet Sunday morning in downtown Jacksonville as crews began cleaning up the mess left behind from a protest that erupted Saturday night.

Multiple buildings in the downtown area were left vandalized with graffiti and smashed windows.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrived to back up cleaning crews who worked to remove shattered glass where protesters smashed in a window at the Jessie Ball Dupont Center on East Adams and Ocean Streets.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors in one Florida office have charged a total of 57 people with rioting and looting that occurred shortly after a black man dying in Minneapolis police custody sparked nationwide protests.

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren announced Friday that charges have been filed against dozens of people for ransacking stores, causing destruction and fighting with police officers in Tampa.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Anger is escalating after the death of George Floyd, who died while in custody of police officers in Minneapolis. Protests are spreading across the country and many are turning violent as people riot and demand justice. Officials are now scrambling to protect cities and law enforcement.

Orlando police even had to keep a close eye on the city overnight as looters broke into stores near the Mall at Millenia.

FOX 35 reporter Matt Trezza visited the Mall at Millenia area, where several stores had physical damage like smashed-in windows. At least six stores were hit.

RELATED: Protesters back in Downtown Orlando as demonstrations erupt across Florida

Authorities say damage was also caused by looters at West Oaks Mall in Ocoee in the overnight hours. As a result, the mall was closed on Sunday.

“Today, one of our primary concerns is vandalism to our local businesses,” said Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon, during an afternoon briefing in which he announced officers would be enforcing a citywide curfew from 10 p.m., Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday.

Our favorite attack against the DeSantis proposal is from another former Miami-Dade prosecutor:

Former Miami-Dade prosecutor Aubrey Webb was aghast at the proposed expansion of the state’s Stand Your Ground law.

“It dangerously gives armed private citizens power to kill as they subjectively determine what constitutes ‘criminal mischief’ that interferes with a business,” Webb said. “Someone graffiti-ing ‘Black Lives Matter’ on a wall? Urinating behind a dumpster? Blocking an entrance?”

The Boston Tea Party members would have been lawfully shot under Florida’s law by the British East India Tea Company,” he said. (emphasis ours)

On December 16, 1773, a group of approximately 60 men from the “Sons of Liberty” group went to the wharves in Boston Harbor to protest the tea tax that the English Parliament had passed to support the British East India Company. The 60 people dumped the tea that was on board three ships into the harbor as to not pay the tax on the tea. This act of civil protest became known as the “Boston Tea Party.”

There is no comparison between the Boston Tea Party and the rioting and looting we have seen in cities against businesses.

First, the Sons of Liberty approached the captains of the ships, and advised them of their intentions to dispose of the tea. There was no violence in their acts.

Secondly, once the tea was removed from the cargo holds and dumped into the harbor, the Sons of Liberty cleaned up the ships, leaving them in the condition they were found. No destruction of the ships, the rigging, the wharves, etc., occurred.

Third, the Sons of Liberty paid for the tea they had dumped into the harbor. Their protest was about the tea tax, not the tea itself.

If Webb thinks that what happened in Boston almost 250 years ago where no other property was damaged, no one was harmed, and the cost of destroyed goods was reimbursed to the company is the same thing as windows smashed, store owners threatened, people stealing the goods, and no compensation for those stolen goods given to store owners by looters and rioters today is the same thing, he is certifiably crazy, ignorant, or both.

We support the rights of people to protest. We would never say otherwise. However, rioting and looting is not protected under the First Amendment and is an attack on the property rights of others. If the government won’t protect the rights of the people, the people can, should and will protect their own rights.

One Response to “Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Proposes New Anti-Looting Law.”

  1. Hometown says:

    I agree with the concept but the bill needs to be carefully worded. Seems like a distinction between public and private property might be in order. A property owner should be allowed to protect his business/property from damage or looting by unruly groups/unlawful actions. Another thing I’d like to see is something that shields those exercising this right be shielded from civil suits that always seem to follow. If you’re following the law you should not be subject to civil action in the aftermath.