- The Washington Times - Friday, April 23, 2021

A civil rights legal group has sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the state’s new anti-riot law, which aims to increase penalties for those involved in a riot, telling a federal court that the law runs afoul of the First Amendment.

Lawyers Matter Task Force, a nonprofit group focused on racial justice, filed the complaint against the governor and other Florida officials this week after Mr. DeSantis signed the anti-riot bill on Monday, asking the court to halt the law from taking effect. 

The 23-page complaint argues that the legislation targets protected speech and does not clearly define “riot,” thereby running the risk of penalizing any protest. The lawsuit also said the law retaliates against those with dissenting opinions by increasing penalties and imposing excessive bail. 

“The bill is unconstitutionally vague, such that it does not provide individuals proper notice of what forms of free speech will expose them to civil and criminal liability,” the lawsuit read.
Cody McCloud, press secretary for Mr. DeSantis, said the office has not formally been served the case. 

“We will firmly defend the legal merits of [the law], which protects businesses, supports law enforcement and ensures punishment for those who cause violence in our communities,” Mr. McCloud said.

Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, signed the legislation this week at a press conference surrounded by law enforcement. 

“If you look at the breadth of this particular piece of legislation, it is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country,” he said.

The legislation makes it illegal to engage in “mob intimidation,” saying it is “unlawful for a person, assembled with two or more other persons and acting with a common intent, to use force or threaten to use imminent force.”

It also distinguishes unlawful activity from “a peaceful protest.”

“This section does not prohibit constitutionally protected activity such as a peaceful protest,” the law states.

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