Florida’s right-wing Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill into law that criminalizes peaceful protests in residential neighborhoods.
The draconian restrictions on free speech were levied in response to the nationwide explosion of demonstrations directed at the United States Supreme Court’s anticipated overturning of abortion rights that were established in Roe versus Wade.
But when pro-choice activists began picketing outside the homes of the five Associate Justices who were named in the draft majority opinion that was leaked last month, advocates for forced birth like DeSantis decided that the Constitution’s First Amendment right to petition the government should be suspended.
None of the Court’s nine jurists, however, live in Florida.
“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,” DeSantis said in a press release. “This bill will provide protection to those living in residential communities and I am glad to sign it into law.”
DeSantis’ statement added that “once this law takes effect, law enforcement officers will provide a warning to any person picketing or protesting outside of a dwelling and will make arrests for residential picketing only if the person does not peaceably disperse after the warning. Residential picketing will be punishable as a second-degree misdemeanor.”
House Bill 1571 “prohibits a person from picketing or protesting before or about the dwelling of a person with specified intent” and “requires a specified warning before arrest.” It takes effect on October 1st, months after the Court is expected to upend a half-century of legal precedent.
Those who violate the new statute are subject to criminal prosecution for a second-degree misdemeanor, the penalties for which include a $500 fine, six months of probation, and a sentence of up to 60 days in jail.