Q&A of the Day – What’s in Florida’s “anti-riot” legislation? Part 2
Bottom Line: If we’re looking analytically at the proposal, one might take exception to a riot being as few as three people causing or threatening harm, and that threats themselves could be considered riotous. During different times I could see strong arguments being made against those thresholds representing criminal rioting. But these aren’t innocent times and we need to have our eyes wide open on this one. The riot in Brooklyn, Minnesota Sunday night showed just how quickly riots can occur these days. In a matter of a few hours after an officer involved shooting – the rioters assembled in mass and began carrying out widespread destruction. This included looting stores, destroying police property and threatening violence against law enforcement. The Minnesota National Guard had to be called in to put an end to it.
What happened in Brooklyn wouldn’t be possible in Florida should HB 1 become law. That’s because law enforcement would be able to break up the would-be rioters before numbers reached levels that allowed for mob rule. It’s also a reminder regarding what’s different now compared to even just a year ago, before George Floyd’s death. Groups of activists have built-in networks they’re ready to activate. And as much as we’d like to think potential violent rioters aren’t in our back yard – they are. We saw it happen throughout South Florida last summer. Thankfully a strong local law enforcement effort, supported by local officials helped mitigate the impact of the riots, but travel through parts of impacted cities in South Florida and you’ll still see damage and graffiti from those riots.
The need to be pragmatically proactive is important. If law enforcement were given the opportunity afforded by HB 1 in Brooklyn, Minnesota Sunday - they would have been able to stop the rioters before the riot itself. There’s nothing about a riot, or the threat of one, that’s freedom of expression and these aren’t innocent times. I believe Florida’s law should reflect that unfortunate reality. If the detractors of this proposal had done more to attempt to prevent riots, rather than attempting to call them peaceful protests in the first place, this might not be happening or necessary.
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