FLORIDA, USA — Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law could be expanded under a so-called "anti-mob" proposal drafted by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The legislation is part of DeSantis' desire to crack down on what he calls "violent and disorderly assemblies," pointing to protests over the summer following the death of George Floyd.
"The inception of our nation is founded on protests, and I got news for you, the Boston Tea Party wasn’t necessarily a peaceful protest, and this legislation would justify the shooting and killing of our founding fathers," Jacksonville attorney Matthew Kachergus said responding to the drafted legislation.
Announced this week, the proposal justifies the use of force by citizens to defend against criminal acts during protests, like looting.
"The governor is touting this proposed legislation as law and order legislation when the net result is the exact opposite. All it does is invite chaos and vigilantly justice," Kachergus said.
Kachergus, who successfully sued the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on behalf of protestors arrested over the summer, is concerned the proposal encourages violence.
Christina Kittle of the activist group Jacksonville Community Action Committee agrees.
"It’s pretty alarming because it’s basically giving vigilantes more power to attack people," Kittle said. "We live in a time where our elected officials are refusing to understand the difference between a violent looting situation and a protest."
The proposal builds on DeSantis' promise in September of "anti-rioting, anti-looting legislation" needed, he said, to restore law and order. That legislation would make it a crime to obstruct traffic during a protest, and offer protection to drivers who injure or kill traffic-blocking protestors.
It would also increase penalties for any protestor who attacks a police officer or causes property damage. The proposal would allow the state to block funding for cities that defund police departments as well.
“It’s clearly targeted to one political group and I think there’s a good argument to be made that it’s racist. It’s targeting the Black Lives Matter protests to the exclusion of anything else, and that segment of society that supports protests against police brutality," Kachergus said.
The proposal is still a draft. The bill would have to be introduced, considered, reviewed by a committee, voted on, and passed to become law.
Kittle said The Florida Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression is hosting a webinar Monday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m., for the community to learn about the proposed legislation.
In a statement released Thursday, Ben Frazier of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville said "This proposed legislation is undemocratic, dictatorial and blatantly unconstitutional."
Frazier said the group, along with the Jacksonville Community Action Committee, will hold a protest against the proposal Saturday, Nov. 21 outside the Duval County Courthouse.