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Downtown Jacksonville Demonstration Against Fla. Protesting Legislation Planned Saturday

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Jacksonville Daily Record
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Duval County Courthouse

Progressive political groups plan to protest at the Duval County Courthouse Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Downtown Jacksonville at 501 W. Adams St. over a controversial bill currently under consideration in the Florida Legislature.

The bill, known as HB1 in the state House of Representatives, would expand criminal charges for protesting and make it difficult for cities to cut their police budgets. If passed, the bill would create a new criminal offence of “mob intimidation,” when three or more people act “with a common intent, to compel or induce, or attempt to compel or induce, another person by force, or threat of force, to do any act or to assume or abandon a particular viewpoint.”

“It effectively criminalizes the First Amendment,” said Benjamin Allen, secretary of the Jacksonville chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, one of the protest organizers. “HB1, if we had a sane judicial system anymore, wouldn’t pass constitutional muster in a million years.”

Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said in a news release the legislation would give law enforcement “the tools and support they need to keep Floridians safe, communities whole and property undamaged.”

“I fully respect the right of every American to peacefully protest; however, there is absolutely no excuse for attacking law enforcement and destroying property,” Simpson said.

Florida’s Republican-led Senate and House of Representatives filed identical versions of the bill last fall, as protests raged over the unequal treatment of African Americans by some police. The House version passed through the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee Wednesday.

“The sole intent of this bill is to protect white supremacy by silencing and criminalizing Black protesters and allies who exercise their First Amendment rights in the pursuit of racial justice,” said ACLU of Florida executive director Micah Cubic in a January news release. 

Other groups involved in the scheduled protest include the Jacksonville Community Action Committee and the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville.

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.