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Republican Governor Pushes Crackdown on Rioting That Would Allow Drivers to Run Over ‘a Mob’ without Liability

Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed legislation that he described as “bold” on Monday. Judging by the plain text of the proposal and the responses to it, bold is an understatement.

Under the “new criminal offenses” section established by the would-be Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act, DeSantis declared it a third-degree felony to obstruct traffic during an “unpermitted protest, demonstration or violent or disorderly assembly.” Notably, the next clause purports to remove liability for injury or death a driver causes if that driver is “fleeing for safety from a mob.

Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D), who lost the gubernatorial election to DeSantis in 2018, immediately called for legal advocacy groups to bring “legal action,” saying that the DeSantis move “would have legalized the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville.”

“Avowed neo-Nazi” James Alex Fields Jr. was sentenced to centuries in prison for the running over and killing Heather Heyer when plowing his car into a crowd of counter-protesters during the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

DeSantis’s legislation would also criminalize the destruction of monuments and purports to to attach racketeering liability to “anyone who organizes or funds a violent or disorderly assembly.” DeSantis also seeks mandatory minimum sentences for striking law enforcement officers.

The governor further threatens local governments with loss of “state grants or aid” if they support “Defund the Police” initiatives.

[Image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.