Orlando activists plan rally against police violence with newly-signed “anti-riot” law in effect

ORLANDO, Fla. — Civil rights groups have already filed a lawsuit against Florida’s so-called “anti-riot” bill, signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis this week.

The bill came about in the wake of last year’s protests in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

READ: Gov. DeSantis signs ‘anti-riot’ bill into law in Polk County

HB 1, entitled “Combating Public Disorder” aims to cut down on violent protests, particularly by increasing the penalties for offenses that occur during civil disturbances.

The new law, which went into effect immediately upon being signed, hasn’t deterred activists in Orlando from continuing to organize demonstrations against police brutality.

One such rally is planned for this Saturday afternoon in downtown Orlando.

Organizers of the rally say they’re trying to balance their concerns over the new law with the need to continue pushing for criminal justice reform.

Lawanna Gelzer of the “Movement Coalition” has created what she calls a “Hall of Injustice,” displaying the faces and names of lesser-known people who have died at the hands of police.

It’ll be displayed alongside the loved ones of people whose names are now regularly shouted at protests, including Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr.

Carr is expected to speak at Saturday’s event, which has been planned since March.

READ: Democrats raise concerns over ‘anti-riot’ bill signed by DeSantis

However, as Orlando Freedom Fighters founder Aston Mack says, the rally comes at the end of a tumultuous week.

“George Floyd, the brief glimpse of hope that we got, was sandwiched in between shootings caused by more police officers,” Mack says.

Join us and the hall of injustice at city hall where we will be hearing from the families who have lost loved ones to...

Posted by Orlando Freedom Fighters on Saturday, April 17, 2021

On top of that, the signing of HB-1, which has been celebrated by Florida Republicans.

Police reform advocates like Mack and Gelzer call it an “anti-protest” law, due in part to the provisions allowing peaceful protesters to be charged for being at an event where others are violent or looting.

“This bill is to intimidate,” Gelzer says. “But one thing about that, Dr. King and others, we’ve always marched. This is unconstitutional. This is not going to stand.”

Gelzer says they’ll have legal advisors and observers in place at the rally to keep an eye on police.

She and Mack hope informing people of their rights- and how things will operate despite the law- will allow people to focus on the reason for the gathering.

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

“Saturday is about a lot of mothers who have lost their children, who have been alienated by the system,” Mack says. “And it’s about having the community remind them that though the system may treat you this way, we don’t care. We’re still here.”

The rally is planned for 2 p.m. Saturday at Orlando City Hall. It will include the vigil, Hall of Injustice, and potentially a march through the downtown area.