DeSantis signed a bill on Monday that prohibits “picketing and protesting” outside someone’s private residence. The Republican governor of Florida said a new law will prevent protests in Florida like those staged by abortion rights protesters in front of the homes of U.S. Supreme Court justices near Washington, D.C. The news comes following a wave of protests over abortion rights, many of which have taken place outside lawmakers’ communities and homes. Violators will have face 60 days in jail and fines of upto $500.
Under the new law, police must first give a warning to protesters who violate the law and may arrest them if they do not “immediately and peaceably disperse.” A person arrested for violating the new law can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. A statement from DeSantis on the bill-signing on Monday cited liberal picketing outside the homes of conservative US supreme court justices following the leak on 2nd May of a draft ruling which showed the court was ready to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision that essentially legalized abortion nationwide.
“Sending unruly mobs to private residences is inappropriate”
The protests outside the justices’ homes generally have been peaceful and within bounds of the US constitution’s first amendment, which guarantees citizens the right to freely express themselves and assemble peacefully. Nonetheless, DeSantis’s statement labeled those protesting for the protection of abortion rights as “unruly mobs”. “Sending unruly mobs to private residences, like we have seen with the angry crowds in front of the homes of supreme court justices, is inappropriate. This bill will provide protection to those living in residential communities and I am glad to sign it into law,” DeSantis said in an interview.
The new law will make it a second-degree misdemeanor to picket or protest outside a person’s house to “harass or disturb” that person. Violators will receive a warning, and those who dot not stop may be arrested for unlawful residential picketing. This will be a punishable offence. DeSantis said the law aims to prevent protests in Florida like the ones outside U.S. Supreme Court justices’ homes in the D.C. area, where abortion rights activists have been protesting. The bill was initially introduced in the Florida legislature in January. Furthermore, the bill that DeSantis signed was unrelated to the recent controversy, as it passed the state legislature in early March. The bill had bipartisan support in the Florida Senate. The new Florida law is designed to discourage protesters from launching campaigns outside a person’s home, in the likely form of political intimidation.
Public opinion on the new bill
Many people said Florida’s law, which is set to go into effect from 1st October will violate their First Amendment rights namely, their freedom to assemble and speak their minds. Francesca Menes, co-founder of the South Florida social justice organization the Black Collective, has criticized the legislation.
“That’s not the case here in Florida, where we have seen legislation the last two sessions undermining this vital right and attacking the Black communities that have relied on it to bring about meaningful change for generations. The right to peaceful protest is a bedrock American principle that should never be undermined,” Menes said in a statement. Menes further said the law “builds on the unconstitutional foundations of the anti-protest bill last year and only reaffirms our will to make sure our voices are heard in order to create a brighter future for the people of our state.”
State Senator Keith Perry, the Republican lawmaker who sponsored the bill, said the legislation was inspired by prior instances of protesters gathering near the homes of both liberal and conservative figures. He gave refrence to the protests outside the Florida homes of US Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, and the parents of murder suspect Brian Laundrie.
He also cited similar situations which encouraged DeSantis to bring the law into being, such as incidents outside the state, like the demonstrators who showed up at the residences of the Chicago and Portland mayors and a home owned by the Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd. “Some of us signed up for all of this, but our spouses, children and neighbors do not. There should be a difference between a public space and your dwelling,” Perry said in an Interview. Though Some Democrats opposed the bill, arguing it infringes on people’s First Amendment rights to free speech.
About Ron DeSantis
Ronald Dion DeSantis born on 14th September 1978 is an American attorney and politician. He is currently serving as the 46th Governor of Florida. DeSantis is a member of the Republican party and before attaining governorship, he also served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Florida’s 6th District for 5 years from 2013 – 2018.
DeSantis studied at Yale University and during that time worked many jobs including an electrician’s assistant and a baseball camp coach. DeSantis graduated from Yale in 2001 with a BA magna cum laude. After graduating, DeSantis went on to become a teacher at the Darlington School. Ron later enrolled in the famous Harvard Law School and graduated there with a Juris Doctor cum laude in 2005.
DeSantis began his political career in 2012 when he announced that he was running for the Republican primary for Florida’s 6th congressional district. DeSantis won the Republican primary with 39% of the votes. Going further Ron DeSantis also became the chairman of the subcommittee on National Security. In 2016, DeSantis announced his candidacy to the United States Senate, but he later dropped out and contested in the re-election for the House of Representatives. In 2018, Ron DeSantis declared that he would be running for the seat of Governor of Florida. Trump said that he would support DeSantis should he run for governor. DeSantis won the elections and thus became Governor of Florida.