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Florida lawmakers pass 'anti-riot' bill accused of quashing speech

By Laila Macor, For AFP, On 16 April 2021, Read Original
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Miami, April 16, 2021 (AFP) 
Florida's state Senate on Thursday passed an "anti-riot" bill in response to widespread protests against racism and police brutality last year in the United States, despite opponents' arguments that such a measure would limit free speech. 


The bill passed in the Republican-controlled chamber with 23 votes in favor and 17 votes against.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the measure into law, strengthening penalties against those participating in protests that turn violent.
DeSantis, a supporter of former president Donald Trump who has been floated as a potential 2024 White House contender, proposed an early version of the "anti-riot" law in September.
The proposal was a response to protests that broke out across the United States and around the world after the death of George Floyd last May.


The Black man died after a white police officer -- whose murder trial is underway in Minneapolis -- knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.
Protests in Florida at the time were mostly peaceful.

Democratic Senator Annette Taddeo accused Republican colleagues of writing a bill designed to curry support among Trump's base, who are also often DeSantis supporters.

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Critics say the law would disproportionately affect Black Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities who already face racial discrimination since the text is vague about what exactly a riot is and leaves definitions about what it means to participate in one open to interpretation.


And it includes protections for those who take action against protesters participating in a riot.
"That means someone who injures a protester can say 'but they were rioting' and not be liable for the injuries he (or) she causes," Norma Henning, government affairs coordinator of the Council on American-Islamic Relations ( CAIR ), told AFP.

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