Why You Should Oppose Governor Ron DeSantis’s Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting Act
By Anquan Boldin (Players Coalition Co-Founder), Aveion Cason (Former NFL Player), Marquis Daniels (Former NBA Player) and Stan Van Gundy (Former NBA Head Coach)
Over the past several months, people have taken to the streets to protest police violence and systemic injustice in both our criminal justice system and in our government. Those protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, and are the result of generations of systemic racism and police brutality that is now regularly displayed on cell phone videos and body worn cameras. Rather than acknowledge people’s pain and address it, media have dismissed it out of hand, favored sensationalism over reality, and falsely portrayed cities with robust protests as war zones where only military force can prevent a descent into anarchy.
Governor Ron DeSantis has now thrown his hat into this ring promoting dishonesty, fear mongering, and forceful suppression of dissent. On September 21, DeSantis rolled out proposed legislation to address civil unrest and protect the police from alleged “mobs” who have supposedly “attacked police officers” and created “disorder and tumult in many cities across the country.”
Even after acknowledging that protests in Florida did not become problematic, violent, or tumultuous like in other parts of the country, DeSantis still insisted Florida had to “do more” to “stand unequivocally” behind law enforcement. His proposed legislation is designed to quash dissent and prevent reform by threatening those who dare voice their disagreement about his policies or perspective with criminal punishment.
The new legislation would, among other things, criminalize protesters by making it a felony to participate in a so-called “violent or disorderly assembly;” grant immunity from prosecution or civil liability to people who run down protestors with their cars, as long as they are “fleeing for safety from a mob;” impose greater penalties on protesters for conduct that is already illegal just because the conduct occurred during protests; and require any person charged with one of these newly created crimes to be held in jail pending trial. To top it off, the proposed statute would remove all state funding from any local government that votes to “defund the police.”
Perhaps by design, the proposal’s broad language suggests any person who attends a protest that later turns violent or “disorderly” could be arrested, held without bail, and eventually convicted of a felony and subjected to a five-year prison term, even if that person did not personally cause or participate in violence or disorder. Anyone who plans a protest that later turns “disorderly” could be prosecuted for racketeering, a statute more often applied to organized crime bosses or criminal syndicates that carries a potential 30-year prison sentence.
The prohibition on “defunding the police” is also profoundly offensive. DeSantis and his partners are seeking to control the decisions of local governments, at a time when they are facing enormous budget shortfalls, and prohibit them from prioritizing other areas of public spending over the police. The statute doesn’t prohibit the abolition of local police forces — that isn’t what “defunding the police” even means. Instead, it prohibits cuts to police budgets. In other words, if a locality wants to fund schools by eliminating military equipment from police budgets, they can’t. If a city wants to fund drug treatment programs instead of police stings aimed at drug users, it will pay a huge financial price.
DeSantis admitted, in the first minutes of his press conference, that protests in Florida were not particularly violent or tumultuous and, therefore, there isn’t even an arguable public safety justification for this piece of legislation. Instead, it is blatant oppression, in its purest form. It is a transparent ploy to trounce civil liberties on the eve of an election, to preserve power and silence the opposition.
But we will not be silenced.
This bill is not only a threat to all of us who have spoken out against police brutality, mass incarceration, and systemic racism, it is a threat to anyone who has disagreed with their government about anything, at any time. It will give the State a tool it can use, whenever it chooses, to suppress dissent, literally hold political adversaries prisoner, and interfere with democratically elected governments. The danger here cannot be overstated, and we must act now to oppose it.
Players Coalition is structured as an independent 501(c)(3) (charity) and 501(c)(4) (advocacy) organization, working with professional athletes, coaches and owners across leagues to improve social justice and racial equality in our country.