Full Text: Federal Judge Blocks DeSantis’s “Anti-Riot” Law

September 9, 2021

In a powerful 90-page order citing the racist history behind anti-riot laws and quoting Shakespeare, Chief Federal District Judge Mark Walker eviscerated Florida’s “Anti-Riot” law enacted to quell the wave of protests following the murder of George Floyd by police officers.

Quoting the AP article appearing on the MSN website on September 9, 2021:

“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, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The 90-page decision 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 the Constitution’s due process protections.

People engaged in peaceful protest or innocently in the same area when a demonstration turned violent could face criminal charges and stiff penalties under the law, the judge said.

A key issue is defining what the word “riot” means in the statute. Walker noted that past Florida laws sought to prevent demonstrations that could threaten segregationist Jim Crow-era practices.

“If this court does not enjoin the statute’s enforcement, the lawless actions of a few rogue individuals could effectively criminalize the protected speech of hundreds, if not thousands, of law-abiding Floridians,” Walker wrote.

“It unfortunately takes only a handful of bad actors to transform a peaceful protest into a violent public disturbance,” the judge added.”

Quoting the final paragraph of the court order issued by Chief United States District Judge Mark E. Walker:

“Though what’s past is prologue, this Court need not give it any power beyond providing context for the case now before it. A critical part of that context, which has not yet been discussed, is that following Ms. Jakes’s, Ms. Patterson’s, and the 1961 Freedom Riders’ arrests under Florida’s anti-riot laws, the rule of law ultimately prevailed. Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964); Browder v. Gayle, 142 F. Supp. 707 (M.D. Al. 1956), aff’d 352 U.S. 903 (1956); see also Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986); Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967); Harper v. Va. State Bd. of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966); Verdict, Minnesota v. Chauvin, No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Minn. Dist. Ct. April 20, 2021). And so too, with this Court, the rule of law prevails.”

Open the PDF file for “The Dream Defenders v. DeSantis” in your browser at the link below or click the “Download” button to download the file to your device.