Federal judge blocks Florida ‘anti-riot’ law backed by Gov. DeSantis


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of a monoclonal antibody site Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. The site at C. B. Smith Park will offer monoclonal antibody treatment sold by Regeneron to people who have tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (NEXSTAR) — A federal judge has ruled that Florida’s new “anti-riot” law championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis as a way to quell violent protests is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

The decision Thursday by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee found the recently enacted law “vague and overbroad” and amounted to an assault on First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly as well as due process protections. DeSantis can appeal the ruling.

DeSantis addressed the judge’s decision during a news conference Thursday, saying, “That’s a foreordained conclusion in front of that court. We will win that on appeal. I guarantee we’ll win that on appeal.”

The governor added that his administration had been successful appealing cases in Tallahassee in the past. “That’s just kind of the way the cookie crumbles,” DeSantis said.

But it’s not the only recent ruling that has gone against DeSantis, with a federal judge blocking social media legislation over the summer and a circuit court judge ruling to allow schools to set mask mandate policies in schools.

The lawsuit over the “anti-riot” legislation was filed by the NAACP Florida conference, Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward and other groups who argued the law is intended to halt protests by Black people and other minorities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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