Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is seeking to vastly expand the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, drafting “anti-mob” legislation that seemingly allows citizens to shoot persons they suspect of looting businesses, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday.
According to the report, the proposed legislation would broaden the legal definition of “forcible felonies” that would justify the use of force against persons who engage in looting or “criminal mischief” that results in the “interruption or impairment” of a business. It would also make it a third-degree felony to block traffic during protests and grant immunity to drivers that unintentionally kill or injure demonstrators blocking traffic, something DeSantis has been pushing for several months.
The Republican governor is touting the proposal as a response to the anti-police brutality protests that erupted across the U.S. in the wake of the alleged murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. DeSantis in September pledged to crack down on “violent and disorderly assemblies,” specifically pointing to “reports of unrest” in other parts of the country that followed Floyd’s death.
But critics of Florida’s existing Stand Your Ground Law said that an expansion of it would do more harm than good by effectively encouraging vigilantes to shoot and kill people they perceive to be looting.
“It allows for vigilantes to justify their actions,” Denise Georges, a former Miami-Dade County prosecutor with experience dealing with Stand Your Ground cases in Florida, told the Herald. “It also allows for death to be the punishment for a property crime — and that is cruel and unusual punishment. We cannot live in a lawless society where taking a life is done so casually and recklessly.”
Former Miami-Dade prosecutor Aubrey Webb was similarly aghast at the notion that Stand Your Ground laws could be broadened instead of further narrowed.
“It dangerously gives armed private citizens power to kill as they subjectively determine what constitutes ‘criminal mischief’ that interferes with a business. Someone graffiti-ing ‘Black Lives Matter’ on a wall? Urinating behind a dumpster? Blocking an entrance?” Webb said. “The Boston Tea Party members would have been lawfully shot under Florida’s law by the British East India Tea Company.”
DeSantis’s proposal also appears to be the legislative embodiment of President Donald Trump’s statements about the George Floyd protests from May.
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” Trump wrote in a tweet flagged by Twitter as glorifying violence. “Just spoke to [Minnesota] Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
At the time, American Civil Liberties Union’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality Jeffery Robinson said those last seven words constituted an illegal call to murder demonstrators. Under DeSantis’s proposal, that might not be the case.
See below for DeSantis’s full proposal:
[image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images]
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