‘Anti-riot’ bill heard by Florida Senate committee

Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 3:57 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPS NEWS/WCJB) - State Senators slated nine and a half hours Friday to consider and debate the controversial anti-rioting legislation in its one and only committee stop before reaching the Senate floor.

More than 50 members of the public came to testify against the legislation.

They fear it will be used as a tool to silence voices that disagree with the Republican- controlled legislature.

“When you are challenging the tools of white supremacy in the state and in the country, they don’t consider you peaceful,” said Jami Davis with Black Voters Matter.

Sponsor Senator Danny Burgess argued the bill’s increased penalties for crimes committed during a riot are necessary to prevent the unrest witnessed in 2020 and on January 6th.

“Because I was rendered speechless watching US soldiers inside our nation’s Capitol protect us from ourselves,” said Burgess.

Democratic Senator Jason Pizzo questioned the true target of the bill.

“Do you think President Trump would be guilty of mob intimidation on January 6th?” asked Pizzo.

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“I’m not going to speculate on that,” replied Burgess.

Democrats tired to amend a study onto the bill to analyze whether the legislation in practice has a disparate impact on minorities.

It failed, but it came with a commitment from the sponsor.

“I will do all I can with you to get an OPAGA study here,” said Burgess.

The legislation takes effect upon the Governor’s signature, which unusual for a criminal justice bill.

“There’s a trial going on somewhere right now, the verdict and the result of which, might make some people really unhappy,” said Pizzo.

Lawmakers anticipate it may be the first test run of the legislation.

“The Floyd trial is just kind of serving as a flashpoint for the concerns,” said State Senator Gary Farmer.

If the full Senate approves the bill without amendments it will head straight to the Governor’s desk.

If lawmakers aren’t able to wrap up Friday, another nine hour hearing is on the agenda Saturday.

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