Protect the Right to Assemble and Protest

Target: Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida

Goal: Reverse Florida’s recently enacted anti-protest law and protect our right to demonstrate.

The 2020 Summer of Protest saw an eruption of mass national demonstrations in response to the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This exercise of democracy and freedom of speech caught the attention of lawmakers in various states, who have since proposed new statutes which aim to curb the trend to organize. We need to protect our right to protest and erect safeguards to render this pillar of democracy untouchable.

An onslaught of punitive anti-protest bills have been proposed across the country since January 17th (a non-exhaustive list of such bills can be seen on the International Center for Not for Profit Law’s website). For example, in Tennessee a bill was approved that would make it a felony to camp on capital grounds. Some are more egregious, as in Florida, where a bill was enacted that widens the legal definition of the word “riot” to “three or more people” and increases legal penalties for participants found in said riots or “aggravated riots” (25 or more people). As noted by the ICNL, “the new definition does not require that the individuals’ conduct be disorderly or violent, or that they commit any actual damage or injury” to be subject to a charge.  By loosening the determinations for a term considered a 3rd degree felony, Governor DeSantis has gifted local authorities increased liberty in who, and for what, they can detain in an assembly. Furthermore, the bill has effectively made engaging in a small demonstration, a potentially incriminating act.

Researchers and activists alike have concluded that these proposed bills are, in part, also motivated by a partisan desire to curb political opposition, rather than address the supposed violence and danger that comes with demonstrating. Furthermore, as assistant professor of politics Omar Wasow noted, the new legislation, if enacted, “‘-will be way disproportionately used in particular against Black activists.’” History, as well, solidifies this take (consider political reactions to the civil rights movement).

Our right to organize and demonstrate freedom of action without retribution is under threat. Demand an immediate legal response that counteracts these unconstitutional legislative attempts to dismantle equal political say.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Governor DeSantis,

The people’s right to peacefully assemble is a constitutional guarantee that is under legal threat in your state. Florida’s expanded definition of “riot” and introduction of new penalties for protestors is a flagrant attempt to curb our propensity to dissent, as well as a thinly veiled partisan attempt to thwart political opposition that also has its roots in racism, fear and political gain.

As our recognition and practice of this power accelerates, so has the local government’s efforts to penalize its use. We demand you retract this bill and establish stringent policy that irrevocably protects the people of Florida’s right to demonstrate.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Ted Eytan


2 Comments

  1. People need to have their voices heard. It is our right as citizens to protest or demonstrate to let a business, an individual, a school, a place of work, and even the government, know our dissatisfaction with a service, a law, or an agenda. Without the legality to protest and demonstrate (non-violently), we are silenced. Letters and calls can be ignored – swept under the rug. It is our right to protest peacefully.

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