by PAT RAIA, [email protected]
An Orlando civil rights attorney has filed a lawsuit challenging the newly signed HB 1, the so-called “Anti-riot” bill on grounds that it violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution because it stifles free speech. Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Orange County Sheriff John Mina are named in the complaint.
HB 1 The Combating Public Disorder, boosts penalties for rioters and allows Floridians to challenge a municipality’s decision to defund its police department.
It also prohibits anyone from defacing, injuring, or damaging a memorial, allows legal action against a local government that obstructs reasonable law enforcement protection during an unlawful gathering, and requires that anyone arrested for a violation be held in law enforcement custody until their first court appearance.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1 into law on April 19.
On April 21, Orlando civil rights attorney Aaron Carter Bates filed the federal suit in US District Court Middle District of Florida Orlando Division on behalf of the Lawyers Matter Task Force. According to its social media page, the Lawyers Matter Task Force was “Created to organize all lawyers and advocates interested in social & racial justice, and the equitable treatment of all.” The organization is a social justice initiative of the non-profit Legacy Entertainment & Arts Foundation Inc., the page said.
According to the complaint, the law seeks to stifle the “peaceful expression of free speech protected by the United States Constitution” by equating peaceful organizing and the support of protest with ‘inciting a riot,’ and exposing peaceful demonstrators and social justice advocacy organizations to civil and/or criminal liability.
The following day, during a press conference in Wellington, DeSantis reacted to the lawsuit saying that the law was well supported.
“Oh, we’ll be fine,” DeSantis said. “It’s a good law, (and) Florida is leading the way yet again on public safety.”
Meanwhile, Whitney Ray spokesman for Attorney General Ashley Moody responded to the lawsuit by saying that role of the Florida Attorney General’s Office, is to “defend duly enacted state laws.”
He declined further comment on grounds that the litigation is pending.
Meanwhile, Austin Moore, general counsel for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said that the law is without merit as it relates to Mina.
“The Sheriff is not a proper party to this lawsuit,” Moore said. “Accordingly, we intend to file a Motion to Dismiss.”
The complaint demands a jury trial and asks the court to enjoin those named in the suit “and all persons acting in concert with them” from enforcing portions of the measure, and the criminal statutes relating to it.
The litigation remains pending.