Critics denounce FL Senate passage of “anti-riot” bill as DeSantis poised to sign it into law

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Senate voted Thursday to approve a controversial anti-protest bill in the state.

House Bill 1, or the “Combating Public Disorder” bill, passed with a 23 to 17 vote, mostly along party lines.

READ: Group fears Florida’s ‘anti-riot bill’ would go too far against free speech

HB 1 broadens who can be charged with felonies and gives law enforcement additional arresting powers during protests.

Civil Rights advocates have already sworn to fight back against it, calling the bill a divisive, racist attack on First Amendment rights.

Governor Ron DeSantis drafted the measure in September as a response to Black Lives Matter protests across Florida in the wake of George Floyd’s death, some of which became violent.

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Supporters of the bill, like Senate President Wilton Simpson (R - Spring Hill), say it will appropriately punish those violent protesters.

“I think it’s a good bill for the state of Florida,” Sen. Wilton said after the vote. “When you look at rioting where people are losing their lives, people are getting bricks thrown at them, that is something that we have to take very seriously.”

Opponents say it will limit free speech and negatively impact those who wish to demonstrate.

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“Don’t come and protest, suppress the vote, suppress the voices. This is not what we are about,” Senator Victor Torres (D - Kissimmee) says.

Governor DeSantis released a statement late Thursday saying he’s looking forward to signing the bill, but a date hasn’t been announced.