Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is seeking to expand the state’s Stand Your Ground law with the drafting of new legislation that he is calling an “anti-mob” bill. The new legislation, if it becomes law, would allow armed citizens to shoot, and potentially kill anyone that they suspect of looting.
The move is in response to the wave of protests that have swept across the nation in the past year.
According to the Miami Herald, the legislation is an attempt to prevent “violent and disorderly assemblies” by permitting violence against anyone involved in the “interruption or impairment” of a business. The law specified that any burglary within 500 feet of “violent or disorderly assembly,” could be answered with lethal force.
However, legal experts fear that this could give vigilantes a license to kill.
Former Miami-Dade County prosecutor, Denise Georges, who has experience with Stand Your Ground cases in the state, told the Herald that the proposed law allows vigilantes to become judge, jury, and executioner over petty crimes.
“It allows for vigilantes to justify their actions. 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,” Georges said.
The legislation also targets protesters with legal action, making the disruption or blocking of traffic a third-degree felony. The law would also give immunity to drivers who kill or injure protesters who were in the road. The legislation also targets jurisdictions that seek to defund police departments, by allowing the state to cut the budgets for any local governments that decide to do so.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, a former prosecutor, and critic of the already existing Stand Your Ground law, believes that DeSantis is attempting to impress the Trump administration with this piece of legislation.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis:
"You loot, you're going to jail."
"You throw a brick at a police officer, you're going to jail."
"You tear down a monument, you're going to jail."
"If you block traffic or harass people, you're going to jail."pic.twitter.com/MIT3FeSMTd
— Cassandra (@CassyWearsHeels) September 24, 2020
“It’s clear that the Trump beauty pageant is still going on with governors and senators, who all want to be the next Trump. And the governor is clearly a very good contestant,” Gelber said.
In most states, conflicts that take place between protesters and counter-protesters have been judged on a case-by-case basis depending on the evidence. However, critics argue that this legislation would set a further legal precedent to protect the actions of vigilantes and further criminalize protests.
Legislation like this would decide the outcome of cases similar to that of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who was charged in the fatal shooting of two protesters over the summer during demonstrations in Kenosha, Wisconsin. If a law like this was in place in Wisconsin at the time of the incident, Rittenhouse would likely not be charged with any crimes, and certainly would not be charged with murder.