Duval County

Florida set to prohibit protests outside of private homes as protests continue at US justices’ homes

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Pro-choice activists have been picketing outside the homes of U.S. Supreme Court justices that signed onto the leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, but a bill on the desk of Florida’s governor would make protesting in front of a private home illegal.

The bill was drafted well before the protests at the justices’ homes began.

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One of the bill’s co-sponsors, State Rep. Mike Beltran (R-Valrico), told us it was the George Floyd protests in 2020 that sparked the bill — specifically, protests in front of Derek Chauvin’s Orlando home.

But there have also been more recent examples of protesters taking their messages to private residences in Florida.

In January of 2021, pro-Trump protesters picketed outside the homes of U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.

Beltran said while those incidents weren’t at the forefront of his mind when he signed on to legislation criminalizing protests outside of residential dwellings, they are examples of what the bill seeks to prohibit.

“These protests not only affect the public officials who folks are trying to influence, they also affect the entire neighborhood and disrupt everyone’s lives,” said Beltran.

Most recently, protests held outside of the homes of U.S. Supreme Court justices have grabbed national headlines.

“If you don’t want people protesting on your front lawns, get your bans off our bodies,” said Maria Garcia, an organizer with Jacksonville Community Action Committee.

Garcia told us while her organization rarely protests in front of homes, she believes the option should be available.

“I don’t see protesting in front of someone’s yard as even comparable to the intrusion of trying to legislate our bodies,” said Garcia.

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The bill makes protesting outside a residential dwelling with the intent to harass or disturb a second-degree misdemeanor, carrying penalties of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Beltran said ironically, it was a ruling in a case against anti-abortion protestors demonstrating outside of abortion providers’ homes that created the legal basis for the bill.

“And if the anti-abortion protesters have to live with that, so too should the pro-choice folks who have been harassing the justices for the past week,” said Beltran.

Under the bill, police will have to issue a warning to protesters telling them to leave a home.

It’s only if the protesters refuse to leave that they could face charges.