State “Anti-riot” bill causes concern from activist group, state senator offers an ear

Published: Apr. 3, 2021 at 12:05 AM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - House Bill 1, which focuses on violent protests or rioting, has been approved by the Florida House.

However, members of the Dream Defenders are not happy with the possibility of this bill becoming a law. Kiara Laurent, a member of the Gainesville Chapter of the Dream Defenders, believes the bill could cause more fear among peaceful protestors.

“This bill puts an attack on us. Makes people fearful of going out in the streets and demanding change,” explained Laurent.

North Central Florida Senator Keith Perry said this bill focuses on violent protestors or rioters, not peaceful protestors.

“Your right is important to peaceful protest, to freedom of expression,” explained Sen. Perry.

RELATED STORY: Florida House of representatives passes HB 1 after heated debate

He explains there are many misconceptions are surrounding HB 1.

“The intention is to protect people, both if you are protesting or not protesting,” said Sen. Perry. “You could be in your car, and you need to be protected. If you are on the road, if you are on a sidewalk, if you are at an outdoor cafe, or if you are protesting, you have to be protected from people who are not there to protest. They are there to wreak havoc.”

Laurent thinks this proposed law infringes on their first amendment rights.

“Everything about the bill basically threatens our ability to protest. From the ability of people who don’t agree with us to basically harm us and do violent acts against us, to also arresting protestors and giving them no bail to be released,” explained Laurent.

House Bill 1 by Dylan Lyons on Scribd

Another member of the Gainesville Chapter of the Dream Defenders said he wouldn’t say they do or don’t support violent protest.

“I think violent protest are the voice of the unheard. There is a reason why people violently protest,” explained Jerry Jerome.

RELATED STORY: Florida House debates HB 1 amendments

Sen. Perry wants people to be involved in the political process. He encourages anyone who has concerns with the bill to reach out to him and other leaders to talk about changes they would like to see.

“Read the bill,” said Sen. Perry. “Pull it up, pull up the latest version, the amended version, read through it. Put the lines that you have issues with. Call me up. I will meet with any group anytime. I will meet with them. I will talk on the phone. I’ll have ZOOM calls. I will meet with them in person if I am in town. It is important to have citizens involvement.”

Laurent said they would continue fighting for change if the bill is signed into law.

“Even if this bill was enacted, we would still keep our people safe. We will demand change,” explained Laurent.

If you would like to read this bill, click here.

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