Black Lives Matter and others speaking out against racism in the U.S. in 2020 prompted the Florida governor to push through legislation that limits protesting.
The Republican governor signed a controversial anti-riot bill in April. “All of a sudden you have people out there shutting down a highway. They start to do that, there needs to be swift penalties,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
The 61-page bill covers a range of measures against mob violence and destruction and makes road blocking by protesters illegal.
So why didn’t Florida’s anti-riot bill apply to recent protesters in Miami? When Cubans held unprecedented demonstrations of anger over shortages of food, basic goods, and freedom in Havana on July 11, U.S. sympathizers protested in solidarity.
These Miami protests, observers noted, broke the law under the anti-riot act by blocking a freeway — a felony, Newsweek reported. But no one was charged and DeSantis has not explained why.
Could it be that the majority of protesters in Florida were white Cuban Americans as opposed to the high numbers of Black people who protested in Florida after the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd?
When South Floridians marched down Palmetto Expressway and closed it down for hours in solidarity with Cuba, DeSantis said, “I think people understand the difference between going out and peacefully assembling, which is obviously people’s constitutional right.”
Joe Sanchez of the Florida Highway Patrol told Local 10, “They are in violation of the law, but you have to have patience. You can’t come out here and arrest everybody.”
Biblical scholar Wil Gafney told Newsweek that she doubted those protesting in Florida would face felony charges and she suspected it would have been different if Haitians or Black Lives Matter protesters of “any race” were in the same situation — “that’s who the law was written for” she tweeted.
“@MiamiDadePD How is this a peaceful protest, when people are on the highway? Isn’t that against the law? Wow! Just wondering if this was a BLM protest will my people get the same treatment? Every HUMAN deserves to be protected. Why aren’t MDCPD taking action?” Deloris Bess@bess_deloris tweeted.
“Turnpike shut down for protesters in Homestead last night. I’m just trying to get home from work! BLM would NEVER have gotten away with this!” Bob Lyons @SteelDrumMusic tweeted.
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