Understanding HB1: Governor DeSantis’ Proposed Protest Bill

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —

New penalties could be put in place for people planning to participate in future protests in the Florida.

HB1, more commonly being referred to as Governor DeSantis’ Protest Bill was filed in the Florida House of Representatives and Senate on January 6th, the same day rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

You can read the entire bill here

Action News Jax Courtney Cole speaks to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle about how this could affect protestors’ rights, moving forward.

“It’s going to make people afraid to speak out,” said Coricia Campbell.

Campbell is no stranger to standing up for what she believes in.

Action News Jax Courtney Cole first introduced you to her last June.

Campbell was arrested for her participation in a peaceful protest in Jacksonville, inspired by the death of George Floyd.

HB1 is in the very beginning stages, which means the language in the bill is likely to change throughout the process.

But, as it stands the proposed legislation includes:

  • Upgrading penalties for illegal actions during riots
  • Making it a felony to destroy any memorial in the state
  • Limiting a city’s ability to re-direct funds from police to social programs

Campbell told Cole if HB1 were to pass, it would certainly change how she participates in a protest.

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“We’ll go for 20 to 30 minutes, versus there for the entire event, because you really never know when things could take a turn. It’s not to say that people intentionally go out there to cause damage and harm. The police were wearing riot gear at a peaceful protest, so there’s no guarantee that things won’t turn violent,” said Campbell.

Florida State Representative John Fischer, of House District 16, supports HB1.

He believes it would discourage people from crossing the threshold from peaceful protest into violence.

“Going to protest...you want to exercise your free speech, that’s one thing. But if you’re going to go outright, destroy windows, and you’re going to try to burn cop cars— you should be punished to the fullest extent,” Fischer told Action News Jax.

Florida State Representative Tracie Davis, of House District 13, is against the bill.

She said it’s already illegal to riot, incite violence and damage property— making this legislation, *unnecessary.

“I personally feel like this is an intent by our current administration to simply silence, punished, and criminalize individuals for fighting for justice. Whether it is racial justice, environmental justice, whether it’s any type of reproductive justice,” Davis explained.

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Some are also concerned this legislation could disproportionately affect protestors of color.

Representative Davis shared a personal with Cole, sharing that she participated in a peaceful protest last year in Duval, too.

“I was walking through the streets of Duval county. We started from the steps of City Hall and walked through the streets of the city— and literally if this piece of legislation was in place, I could’ve been arrested, as well as any of those other people out there that were walking with us in a peaceful manner, and we were just chanting and singing.”

Governor Ron DeSantis first presented the idea for this legislation last fall, following Black Lives Matter protests in the summer.

But HB1, and identical Senate Bill 484, weren’t filed until after the Capitol riots on January 6th of this year.

The bill was passed last week by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee.

Its next stop is the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

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While there are weeks, even months, before the final outcome on this legislation will be determined—Campbell said she plans to let lawmakers know how she feels sooner, rather than later.

“I will call you every day, I have time and patience!” Campbell exclaimed.

Here’s how you can reach out to your local lawmakers:

Click here for Florida Representatives

Click here for Florida Senators