Irony, thy name is Florida.
On Monday, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed H.B. 1, an act “relating to combating public disorder.” The bill passed on strictly partisan votes by Republicans in both the House and Senate with the exception of one GOP senator who voted with Democrats opposing the measure. It contains the following provisions which fly in the face of supposedly traditional GOP governing principles.
- Defines riot “as an assembly of three or or more persons, acting with a common intent to assist each other in violent or disorderly conduct” (you can kiss the First Amendment goodbye).
- Creates the second-degree felony of “aggravated rioting” if more than 25 participants cause bodily harm or $5,000 in property damage or use a deadly weapon (good thing for Oath Keepers and Proud Boys the U.S. Capitol is not in the Sunshine State).
- Disorderly conduct includes “imminent” danger of injury or property damage (otherwise known as the “psychic full-employment clause”).
- Limits the ability of local governments to reduce the operating budgets of municipal law enforcement agencies (so much for decentralized decision-making).
- Prohibition of obstructing traffic by standing on a street, highway or road (of course it does not apply to obstructing traffic on waterways a la pro-Trump regattas).
- Calls for imprisonment without bail until arraignment of anyone arrested for participating in a riot (unlike Kyle Rittenhouse who was allowed to go home after fatally shooting two people with an illegally obtained assault weapon).
These are just the highlights. And how does DeSantis characterize these 61 pages of big government oversight?
If you look at the breadth of this particular piece of legislation, it is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country. There’s just nothing even close.
Now those are words from a man of conviction. Except of course when it does not fit his narrative of us versus them. During a Monday appearance on Fox News’ Ingraham Angle, Florida’s tough-talking strongman suggested jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial convicted the ex-police officer because “you basically have justice meted out because the jury is scared of what a mob might do.” Just so I understand this correctly, three people standing on Duval Street in front of the Florida Supreme Court with a sign that says “H.B. 1 is unconstitutional” is a riot, but four police officers killing an individual at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis is not.
You want more irony? On March 2, 2021, during his state of the state address, DeSantis took umbrage against those who he claimed were promoting the “cancel culture” and “political correctness.”
Florida has always been a state that strongly supports free speech, and we cannot allow the contours of acceptable speech to be adjudicated by the whims of oligarchs in Silicon Valley.
I cannot wait for the remake of Blazing Saddles, when DeSantis is cast in the role of Governor Lepetomane (Mel Brooks in the 1974 original) and declares, “We can’t allow oligarchs in Silicon Valley to control speech. That’s our phony-baloney job.”
What could possibly go wrong? Look no further than this morning’s headlines. For example, Reuters reports, “Russia arrests over 1,700 at rallies for hunger-striking Navalny.” Or as DeSantis and his legislative “red guard” would describe it, “Russia jails over 1,700 without bail for riots that blocked traffic.”
The day before the Navalny protest, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the Federalist Council in a nationally televised speech which sounded a awful lot like DeSantis’ justification for Florida’s anti-riot law. Putin dared anyone to challenge his handling of Alexei Navalny.
Organizers of any provocations that threaten our core security interests will regret what they have done like they’ve never regretted anything for a long time.
Putin might as well have ended by saying, “You know, like my comrade-in-arms and future president of the United States Ron DeSantis. But in Russia, we don’t need no stinking H.B. 1.”
As he leaves the podium, Putin passes Konstantin Kilimnik, hands him a manila envelope, and says, “Konstantin, I have your next assignment, should you decide to accept it (like you have a choice, haha). As always, should you or any of your SVR team be caught or killed, I will disavow all knowledge of your actions.” (Mission Impossible theme plays as Kilimnik reads the contents of the envelope before it self-destructs.)
For what it’s worth.