Florida Senate approves anti-protest bill with Gov. DeSantis set to sign it

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Florida Senate voted Thursday to approve an anti-protest bill in the state.

Thursday, 6:27 p.m. update:

The controversial anti-protest bill is now heading to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

The state Senate approved the measure Thursday afternoon.

The bill would create a new crime called “mob intimidation.”

It would also enhance penalties for existing riot-related offenses and make it harder for cities to cut law enforcement spending.

Critics say it will limit free speech and have a negative impact on protesters.

Those in favor say it will simply punish violent protesters.

Original report:

Pastors throughout the state are reacting to a bill now on the Senate floor that would crack down on protesters.

The measure would make it mandatory for anyone who strikes a law enforcement officer during a protest to serve at least six months behind bars.

Months ago, local clergy in Central Florida formed a coalition to stop the bill from becoming law.

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With the bill just one step from reaching Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk, pastors are now calling out big businesses supporting lawmakers in favor of it. And promising legal action if it passes.

Members of the coalition Florida Faith Leaders said they are not waiting quietly as DeSantis’ anti-protest bill sits on the Senate floor.

The legislation was introduced in September 2020 and would make penalties for protestors much harsher.

Things like striking a law enforcement officer during a violent or “disorderly” assembly would mean a minimum of six months behind bars.

And no bond or bail would happen until first appearance in court if a person is charged with participating in a violent protest.

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During a news conference on Tuesday, faith leaders called on big corporations to help stop the bill from becoming reality.

Faith leaders like Pastor James Morris, with Carter Tabernacle in Orlando, said they support legislators who do not want this bill to pass.

“I can tell you that many of my colleagues – we’ve already been talking about this and reaching out to certain attorneys,” Morris said.

But not everyone is opposed.

Chief Charles Broadway with the Clermont Police Department is also with the Florida Police Chief’s Association.

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He said in a statement the department supports the proposed legislation: “The combating violence, disorder and looting and law enforcement act does not obstruct anyone from lawful assemblies, but serves to protect those exercising their right to peaceful protest while enhancing penalties for those who choose to commit violence and engage in lawless acts.”

The group of pastors also called out the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Danny Burgess, saying he has refused to make what they call sensible amendments.