Miami activists call out Florida Gov. DeSantis over anti-riot law

A law called HB1, seemingly aimed at Black and brown protesters, is facing backlash from the community as it appears to be selectively enforced

Several Black community activists in Miami, Florida, are calling for a repeal of an anti-riot law by Governor Ron DeSantis. The group believes the GOP lawmaker is enforcing a law that’s purposely geared to issue harsh penalties to protesters who are Black or people of color.

As reported by CBS 4 Miami, the African-American Council of Christian Clergy, along with other Black community leaders, held a press conference on Friday to address their concerns over the anti-riot law, referred to as HB1.

Florida Governor DeSantis Holds Roundtable On Cuba In Miami
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis takes part in a roundtable discussion about the uprising in Cuba on July 13, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The official bill states that HB1 is a law made for “combating public disorder.” The law says that felony charges will be issued to protesters who willfully engage in a riot. This includes anyone who “endangers the safe movement of a vehicle traveling on a public street, highway, or road.”

DeSantis made a statement about that particular detail.

“We also have penalties for people who commandeer highways which we saw in other parts of the country,” DeSantis said. “Just think about it, you’re driving home from work and all of a sudden, you have people out there shutting down a highway. If they start to do that there needs to be swift penalties [as] that’s something that just cannot happen.”

The African-American Council of Christian Clergy feels the timing of DeSantis’ statements along with a recent highway protest by pro-Cuban protesters shows that the bill is selectively applied.

The Associated Press reported that on July 13, several demonstrators blocked off the Palmetto expressway in solidarity with Cuba, whose people protested poor economic conditions and various other grievances with the island’s government earlier this month.

Miami Area Cubans Rally In Solidarity With Protesters In Cuba
Protesters gather in front of the Versailles restaurant in Little Havana on July 14, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Pro-Cuban protesters received no punitive measures despite blocking the highway and the Christian groups believe the bill is directed more at BLM protesters.

Carl Johnson of the 93rd Street Community Baptist Church spoke in support of the Cuban protests but also noted the double standard.

“We’re here today to stand in support of our Cuban family, our Haitian family that they deserve liberation, no one should live in bondage, no country, no culture no creed, no individual, and since we’re living in the land of the free we’re standing here today to say to our governor that there seems to be a double standard with the HB1 bill,” Johnson said.

After the highway protest, an injunction was filed against the HB1 law, and the African American Council of Christian Clergy stated their intentions to support the injunction. Attorney David Winker also called out DeSantis for his selective enforcement of the law in cases that involve people of color.

“Governor, you made a mistake. Your words have come back to haunt you,” Winker said. “Repeal this law and let’s admit that it’s wrong.”

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