Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill into law on Monday that will make it illegal to protest in front of a person’s private residence.
The new law makes demonstrating in front of a private residence illegal, even if the protest is happening in a public space, like a sidewalk. Those in violation of the law will be asked by law enforcement to disperse. If they do not do so willingly, they can be jailed for up to 60 days and fined up to $500.
The law, which goes into effect on October 1 of this year, will undoubtedly be challenged by free speech advocates for violating their First Amendment protections.
DeSantis justified his signing of the bill by noting that protesters were gathering in front of the homes of Supreme Court justices who support removing abortion protections established in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision — but the bill was filed in the state legislature back in January, long before such protests were taking place.
“Sending unruly mobs to private residences, like we have seen with the angry crowds in front of the homes of Supreme Court justices, is inappropriate,” he said in an email to reporters.
Despite DeSantis’s false characterization of the protests, however, the demonstrations in front of justices’ homes have been peaceful.
This isn’t the first bill DeSantis has signed in recent years to suppress free speech and criminalize protesting for Floridians. Last year, DeSantis signed a bill into law that increased civil penalties for protesting, and created new crimes such as “aggravated rioting” and “mob intimidation” — the latter of which makes it illegal for a group of three or more individuals to confront someone else to try to make them change their views. The law also made it illegal to block traffic on highways, and granted civil immunity protections to people who drive their vehicles into crowds of protesters.
Notably, the law only seems to be enforced against protestors who the Florida governor disagrees with; his administration did nothing after a protest that DeSantis favored politically blocked traffic on a highway.