Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Holds Pro-Police Press Conference in Brevard County
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announces $1,000 bonuses for all police in Florida
At noon today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference with an unmistakable sign out in front of the podium, facing the cameras and audience, a sign that read, “Defund the Police,” with the red strikeout symbol around the “De” portion of the “Defund.” The sign was clever, if not tacky. Don’t “Defund” the police, it suggests, but “Fund” the police. It was then that the governor announced a bonus that will be paid to police officers to the tune of $1,000.
The $1,000 bonus will be issued to every single sworn police officer in Florida.
The Florida Governor was surrounded by law enforcement officials as he explained that, along with teachers and emergency responders (firefighters and EMTs), each of whom was promised a $1,000 bonus earlier this year, police officers risk their lives and they’ve had to deal with a lot of pressure in the face of today’s political climate. And thus they’ll be getting $1,000 bonuses, as well.
The Florida Governor mentioned that when the pandemic hit, many of us had the ability to turn to software like Zoom to complete our work, working from the safety of our own homes. But police officers, said DeSantis, didn’t have that luxury. He also referred to the way police officers have been treated as a disgrace.
The police chiefs of several police departments were present, including the police chief from Indian Harbor Police Department, Titusville Police Department, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne Police Department, Melbourne Beach Police, and Indiatlantic Police Department.
But the conference wasn’t without its mention of protests and riots.
The governor defended the “anti-rioting” bill that he says will protect Florida communities. DeSantis said that we’re going to protect our state and that the rioting bill would do just that. Governor DeSantis said that the police in Florida knew the State of Florida “had their back” and mentioned that we did a lot better in Florida than in other states, but again, highlighted that the treatment of police has been terrible.
Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Combating Public Disorder bill into law a few weeks ago, a bill that had been drafted on January 7th, 2021, in the wake of the Capitol riots in Washington D.C. But the birth of the idea began long before that, in the late summer of 2020, as America faced nationwide protests in the wake of the alleged murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
In the wake of the George Floyd protests last year, some of those that turned violent, the Governor began to think about what could be done to protect residents. Most of us remember the 2020 protests-turned-violent in cities like Seattle, Portland, and Minneapolis, and the Governor said the State of Florida would have none of that.
Governor DeSantis said, explicitly:
“If you have a violent assembly and you throw a brick and hit a police officer, you’re going to jail, okay?”
At a press conference in Polk County, Florida, earlier this month, Governor DeSantis said, “We saw really unprecedented rioting and disorder throughout the summer of 2020, and we said that’s not going to happen here in the state of Florida. And we wanted to make sure that we were able to protect the people of our great state, people’s business, and property against any top of mob activity or violent assemblies.”
So what’s actually in the Combating Public Disorder bill that is now law?
Well, first off, it makes aggravated violence that takes place during a protest an automatic 2nd-degree felony. That’s the major sales pitch the DeSantis administration went with when conjuring up the bill in late 2020 and early 2021. The bill doesn’t criminalize protests, per se, despite what many media outlets have said, it merely stiffens the criminal penalties for those who conduct violence during a protest.
Besides making violence during a protest a 2nd-degree felony anywhere in the State of Florida, the law also allows the State to intercede on behalf of the citizens if localities try to unilaterally defund the police. It also provides civil immunity for anyone who runs over a violent rioter during a protest. Beyond these, the law:
- Criminalizes using or threatening force or violence against someone else during a protest.
- Allows businesses and property owners to sue local municipalities if they fail to provide adequate policing for such a situation.
- Criminalizes defacing property, including flags, and notably, criminalizes defacing historical structures, statues, or monuments.
- Disallows bail for people arrested for violently protesting until their first court appearance.
While the bill is officially law, there’s certainly going to be some legal pushback and it might end up all the way at the Supreme Court. The Governor and Republicans have doubled down, stating that it will help keep our communities safe and free from violence while respecting the right to peacefully protest at other locations, such as city halls.
The Governor reiterated that he wholeheartedly supports the right to peaceful protests. He said that the anti-riot bill will only apply to those who turn violent in the protests we have in the future.
The reviews on Facebook were overwhelmingly positive, judging by the comments, signaling that DeSantis may be enjoying quite a bit of support here in Florida and these policies are the reasons why. Though I have my reservations. And so does the country, understandably.
The central question surrounding all of this is how much can we take DeSantis at his word? He’s been ambivalent about vaccines and his COVID response, at best, he was an ardent Trump supporter during his campaigns leading up to his taking the governorship, and he’s allegedly tried quite hard to alter the COVID-19 numbers to make the state seem like it was performing better than it actually is.
It’s safe to say, poor communities, people of color, and Democrats more generally are having a hard time trusting him. And what about small towns where these kinds of policies might be used against the minorities in those communities by overzealous and abusive police departments? It’s not unheard of.
That’s what’s been happening in Georgia like crazy, the state right above us.
We’re at a height of racial tensions in this country and some feel that this isn’t the way to try to ease those tensions, feeling that Governor DeSantis might attract more bees with honey than vinegar, so to speak.