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Governor DeSantis Signs Controversial Anti-Riot Bill Into Law

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an anti-riot bill into law Monday morning. The law, HB-1, is one of the most strict in the U.S.  when it comes to regulating riots.

The new law has been met with polarized reactions. Some people say the language in the law is unclear and gives too much control to police. Others say the law is a step in the right direction.

During a press conference Monday at the Polk County Sheriff's Office, Governor Ron DeSantis was joined by legislative leadership and law enforcement officials from across the state to sign the "Combating Public Disorder Act" into law. The bill, HB 1, takes a robust approach to uphold the rule of law, stand with those serving in law enforcement and enforce Florida's zero tolerance policy for violent and disorderly assemblies. The bill comes in the wake of ongoing violence, rioting and other forms of civil unrest throughout the United States over the last two years.

Governor DeSantis said in the conference, "In Florida, we are taking an unapologetic stand for the rule of law and public safety.  We are holding those who incite violence in our communities accountable, supporting our law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to keep us safe and protecting Floridians from the chaos of mob violence. We're also putting an end to the bullying and intimidation tactics of the radical left by criminalizing doxing and requiring restitution for damaging memorials and monuments by rioters. If you riot, if you loot, if you harm others, particularly if you harm a law enforcement officer during one of these violent assemblies, you're going to jail."

Also at the conference, Grady Judd, Polk County Sheriff, held up pictures of protests and said "This is a peaceful protest. We encourage it. It's the foundation of our country and we want people to peacefully protest when they feel the need." Then holding up a separate photo with obvious violence, he stated, "This is a riot and this will get you locked up quick in the state of Florida. Pay attention, we've got a new law."

Florida's HB-1, the anti-riot law is highly controversial. The 61-page document makes it more difficult for local governments to defund the police, holds local governments and agencies accountable for not intervening in riots, enhances penalties for anyone who assaults others or damages property during a riot, and prohibits people from destroying a historic memorial monument.

Elizabeth Kramer, a member of the Tampa Bay Community Action Committee says "It's not clear, and now whatever the police deem as violent or disorderly is the truth." She says the law is not specific enough. "If one person were to act up and choose to do something that would be considered illegal or whatever the case, then the liability of that potential charge comes down on all of the organizers. We don't even have to know that person," said Kramer.

She feels the law was unnecessary. "There are laws obviously against looting and things like that that already exist," said Kramer.

On the other hand, Cassandra Kistler with and organization called Back The Blue Florida, disagrees. "I really love that it creates different punishments for people who want to go cause chaos in the communities," said Kistler. She supports peaceful protests and hopes this new law encourages it.

"That just really helps everybody out in the community. It makes everybody safe. It protects the business owners. It protects our police officers," said Kistler.

Kramer says the Tampa Bay Community Action Committee aims to get rid of the law, and they are currently making plans to try to do so.

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