Florida’s Governor Wants to Make it Legal to Shoot Protesters. Here’s What You Should Know

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has drafted a bill that would make it legal to shoot protesters by expanding its state’s Stand Your Ground Laws.

The drafted legislation obtained by The Miami Herald states that DeSantis wants to expand Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws, the state’s self-defense laws, by allowing any armed citizen to shoot at anyone engaged in “criminal mischief” that disrupts a business. The proposed bill allows armed citizens to use force against people if there is an “interruption or impairment” of a business.

It also includes key elements that could really hurt demonstrators, including withholding state funds from defunding law enforcement budgets. The proposed bill would enhance criminal penalties and make it a third-degree felony for people who are involved in “violent or disorderly assemblies,” such as blocking traffic during demonstrations, according to The Miami Herald. This means drivers could have immunity if they claim to have “unintentionally” injured or killed protesters with their car if they were blocking traffic.

Stand Your Ground laws allow an armed citizen to defend themselves and others around them if they are in danger. Currently, there are 34 states that enact some form of stand your ground laws

“It allows for vigilantes to justify their actions,” Denise Georges, a former Miami-Dade County prosecutor told the newspaper. “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 proposed bill comes just a few months after social justice demonstrators demanded justice for the unjustified deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. DeSantis threatened protesters that he would “rain a ton of bricks” penalties on demonstrators.

"We're not going to go down the road that other places have gone," DeSantis said, according to Politico. "If you do it, and you know that a ton of bricks will rain down on you, then I think people will think twice about engaging in this type of conduct."

Following the governor’s remarks, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized DeSantis, saying his comments were an attempt to “silence, criminalize, and penalize Floridians who want to see justice for Black lives lost to racialized violence and brutality at the hands of law enforcement.”

“The Constitution firmly protects protests even when – and especially when – they challenge government policy, and express dissatisfaction with the status quo. Instead of acknowledging and addressing police brutality and violence in our state, Gov. DeSantis wants to use his power to throw more people into the criminal legal system by enacting overly harsh criminal penalties for protesters who are exercising their constitutional right to take to the streets and demand justice,” Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement.

“Under the guise of protecting public safety and residents, this proposal would deny fundamental due process to protesters by eliminating their right to bail. Instead of addressing the violence protesters in cities across the state have been subjected to at the hands of law enforcement, Gov. DeSantis is doubling down on his disdain for dissent. This is not what democracy looks like,” Kubic continued.

Stand your ground laws have come under fire these past few years. In June, Democratic lawmakers in the Georgia House of Representatives pushed to repeal the state’s “stand your ground laws” months after the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, the Atlanta Journal Consitution reported. Arbery, a Black man, was on a jog when three white men followed, shot and killed him. Greg and Travis McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan have been since charged with murder.