News & Politics

No, the New Florida Riot Law Does Not Say You Can Mow Down Protestors With Your Car

Screenshot from video.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an anti-riot bill that he had been advocating for since last summer’s chaos. The goal of the bill was to define a riot and ensure that those who engage in that behavior will face legal consequences. It also provides that rioters will not be immediately bailed out to return to the melee as has happened in cities like New York, Portland, and Seattle for the past year.

In the law, a riot is defined as three or more people acting with common intent resulting in injury to others, damage to property, or the imminent danger of injury or damage. Aggravated riot, a new second-degree felony, can be charged when 25 or more participants cause great bodily harm or more than $5,000 in property damage, uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon, or blocks roadways by force or threat of force.

This news garnered loud gnashing of teeth from the left and even some libertarians. They are either claiming that Florida is outlawing protests or that it is now legal to run over protestors. Neither of these assertions is true. The law is only characterized this way because the corporate media, left-wing radicals, and their inside sponsors in the Democrat Party have manipulated language over the past year. And because DeSantis is a Republican, it terrifies them looking ahead to 2024 and beyond.

A protestor is not someone who assaults law enforcement, smashes windows, loots businesses, or lights buildings on fire unless you work for the corporate media. Groups who come together to do these activities in concert are rioters. If you pay attention to independent journalists, there have been hundreds of examples of the difference over the last year. People marching with signs, shouting slogans, and petitioning their government are protestors. The ones dressed in black with “masks” for reasons other than COVID, who lob Molotov cocktails, frozen water bottles, and chunks of concrete, are rioters. Florida has made the distinction.

One of the features of these riots is young, pasty communists or radical members of BLM screaming, “Whose streets, our streets!” blocking traffic, and swarming cars driven by uninvolved citizens just trying to reach a destination. The new Florida law eliminates civil liability for those drivers who continue to drive and hurt or kill a rioter when confronted in this way. Here is an example from Colorado. A driver tries to get away from a BLM mob that is climbing on their car. In their haste and confusion, they hit a protestor:

Here is a 911 call from a mother alone with a toddler in Fredericksburg, Virginia, who inadvertently found herself in the middle of a BLM protest with her young daughter in the car. The 911 operator told her they could not send law enforcement because it was a permitted protest. Listen to her distress and decide for yourself if you would have put your foot on the gas:

Why should the state allow either of these drivers—who are part of the mob threatening them for fleeing an area where they felt their lives could be in danger—to be sued civilly by the rioters? Maybe the rioters shouldn’t play in traffic. What are the drivers supposed to do? Stop? Get out of the car? As someone who watched the nearly fatal beating of Reginald Denny during the 1992 Los Angeles riots on live television, it is not a course of action I would recommend.

Under the new Florida law, it may not come to this type of tragedy because it is illegal to block roads. Hopefully, the blockade would be reported and cleared so no driver would face this type of decision. The bill also holds local governments accountable for protecting the life and property of their citizens. There will be no stand-down orders in the state of Florida—local leaders who issue them can be held liable. Also, there is no defunding of police departments without approval at the state level. DeSantis explained:

As we saw last summer, some of the local governments are actually telling, not necessarily in Florida but throughout the country, basically telling these folks to stand down, telling police to stand down while cities burnt, while businesses were burnt, while people were being harmed. That’s a dereliction of duty.

What our bill says, and what I’ll sign into law today, is that if you’re derelict in your duty as a local government, if you tell law enforcement to stand down, then you’re responsible for the damage that ensues. And if someone’s been harmed, or their property has been destroyed, then they can sue you for compensation.

DeSantis is protecting law-abiding Floridians, their property, their businesses and ensuring that local leaders maintain the public trust. Certainly, there are residents of Minneapolis, Portland, and Seattle who wish their governors would do the same. Given what we can expect in the days following the verdict in the Chauvin trial, Governor DeSantis may have signed the law just in time.