It’s official: Ron DeSantis has literally turned Florida into an international embarrassment.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination released a report examining discrimination across the world on Tuesday that verified Florida House Bill 1, an oppressive anti-protest law pushed by DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida. State.
In its report, the committee – made up of 18 members, including a representative from the United States – said it was “concerned by reports of a growing number of state-level legislative measures and initiatives that unduly restrict the right to peaceful assembly in the wake of anti-racism protests in recent years, such as Florida’s HB1 Combating Public Disorder Act.
DeSantis enacted HB1 last year in response to protests against police brutality that erupted in the summer of 2020. Republicans, seeking to hijack the national discourse of racism, have selected isolated incidents of violence in an effort to portray all anti-racist protesters as dangerous and to delegitimize their cause.
Florida’s law, dubbed “riot” legislation by its supporters, is the product of a right-wing scare campaign.
The law authorizes punitive action against anyone who “deliberately participates in a violent public disorder involving an assembly of three or more persons.” It is a dangerously and deliberately broad bill. As written, this means that an anarchist or anyone in disguise can show up at an anti-racism protest and intentionally cause harm or harm, potentially drawing peaceful protesters into a criminal investigation.
For more than a year now, civil rights activists in Florida have been sounding the alarm about the law being used to silence and harass protesters. Ben Frazier, founder of the civil rights group Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, was asked to testify before the UN committee in Geneva earlier this month, ahead of Tuesday’s report.
Several judges also supported the arguments against the bill. Last year, a federal judge blocked significant parts of the bill, including its expanded description of what constitutes a “riot,” on the grounds that they violated the First Amendment.
“If this Court fails to enjoin law enforcement, the lawless actions of a few rogue individuals could effectively criminalize the protected speech of hundreds, if not thousands, of law-abiding Floridians,” wrote U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in his decision.
DeSantis and his team appealed, but the presiding federal judge was so unimpressed with their arguments that he wondered if DeSantis’ team even understood them.
“Isn’t the fact that you have trouble telling me what the law does […] tell you that there is a problem with your theory? U.S. Circuit Judge Edward Carnes asked Florida’s deputy solicitor general during a court hearing in March.
Responding to the UN committee’s report, a spokesperson for DeSantis said Florida residents are the only ones who have “any influence on governance,” according to the Miami Herald.
Of course, he has been Floridians who briefed the committee on HB1. And DeSantis is the same guy who fought to overturn a voter-passed amendment that would have helped millions of felony convicts get to vote. And he did pressuring state lawmakers to accept a racially discriminatory Congressional map proposed by his own office that will help him consolidate power in the state and potentially the country. Obviously, he and his team have little interest in responding only to voters.
Either way, the UN committee’s report is the latest sign the world is taking notice of DeSantis-ruled Florida and its oppressive ways. He put his condition on the world stage… just for all the wrong reasons.