Following a year marked by widespread protests and rioting across the U.S., Republican leaders are pursuing harsher penalties for participants who block traffic, destroy property, or engage in other unlawful acts.
As a result, various anti-rioting bills have been introduced in at least 34 states, with Florida and its GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis leading the way, as The Hill reports.
New measures proposed in multiple states
Earlier this week, former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering Floyd, but tensions remain high, and violent protests remain a distinct possibility in all corners of the nation.
Among the bills put forward by Republicans to handle the situation were proposals in Oklahoma, Iowa, and Florida, which seek to protect drivers from criminal penalties for running over protesters who block traffic. Such a measure has already been enacted in Florida.
For his part, DeSantis heralded his state’s bill, which has garnered the most media attention thus far, as the “strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country” when he signed it into law on Monday.
“That’s what you call a riot”
The law also makes it a felony to destroy monuments, stiffens riot-related penalties, and makes local governments civilly liable for damage sustained during protests if they prevent police from responding.
It creates a new crime of “mob intimidation,” declaring it a misdemeanor to “compel or induce, or attempt to compel or induce, another person to do or refrain from doing any act or to assume, abandon, or maintain a particular viewpoint against his or her will.”
Of course, the new measures are not without sharp opposition from progressives, who have denounced them as heavy-handed.
Republican proponents, however, say they are not trying to stop anyone from exercising their rights but are simply targeting lawbreakers.
As GOP Oklahoma state Rob Standridge explained: “You can protest all you want, I encourage that, but once you start throwing things at people’s cars, and trying to break their windows and pull them out of the car, it’s no longer a protest, that’s what you call a riot.”