Leave it to Florida Republicans to pass in the House a bill that targets Black people at the same time the police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd is on trial.
Clueless — or, downright racist?
Given facts and history, most likely, the latter.
The instigator of Florida’s so-called “anti-riot” bill is Yale- and Harvard-educated lawyer Gov. Ron DeSantis. And the sponsor is another lawyer, an eager-beaver Republican representative from Miami, Juan Fernandez-Barquin, who says he volunteered for the job to help DeSantis, in my opinion, with his fascist endeavor.
Barquin used to be an assistant public defender in Palm Beach, but I guess he now plays for another team.
Given those sets of facts — they’re allegedly smart people — it’s hard to argue clueless motivation.
They know exactly what they’re doing.
The controversial measure has been loaded with racially charged intent since DeSantis made it clear in November that he would crack down on what he called “rioting,” but that, in fact, were largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville.
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The burning of some Miami police cars, the looting of some stores at Bayside Market Place and the vandalism of statues at Bayfront Park were the acts of a few. Likewise, in the other two Florida cities. All caught were arrested and charged with crimes because the laws against criminal activity, no matter how or when it takes place, are already in the books.
What DeSantis and his supporting cast of GOP lawmakers are doing with HB1 is perpetuating a system of double standards based on race.
When a police officer acts unlawfully, when he kills or maims, or violates civil rights, we’re told he’s “a bad apple” in a bushel of good public servants. But when African Americans and Latinos protest, and some opportunists, or some hotheads in the crowd, do damage, the knee-jerk reaction is to quash people’s sacred right to protest in a democracy.
It’s wrong and racially motivated thinking — and that’s what this bill is all about, the need to rein in the Black man, the need to criminalize his behavior with legislation a la Jim Crow, whether it’s by keeping people from protesting with threats of arrest or making it harder for them to vote.
This is why these lawmakers can’t muster an ounce of sensitivity at this poignant moment in time.
“Violence discredits the cause of the protests,” Fernandez-Barquin said during the last seconds of his appearance on the Sunday show “This Week in South Florida” with Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg during a discussion of the bill.
No, it doesn’t.
The cause of long-overdue racial justice in this country — and the fact that the killing of unarmed Black people by police must stop — is greater than the behavior of a few miscreants.
The fact that Fernandez-Barquin used his last precious moments of air time to say this speaks volumes. Bet he wouldn’t feel the same way if Cubans were burning down Havana to protest the Castro regime.
Then, the jubilant applause would rattle Miami with the force of an earthquake.
Others deserve the same understanding about their anger.
Derek Chauvin’s trial in Minnesota is a defining moment — and while a jury was being seated, a bill in Florida that targets the rightfully angry protests against Floyd’s killing, and that of so many other African Americans, was swiftly making its way through committees.
It was passed by the full House Friday on a vote along partisan lines and is now in the Senate.
Miami-Dade Democrat Jason Pizzo, who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, says he won’t give the bill a hearing. But he also says that Republicans are already maneuvering ways to get around him — and they will most likely succeed because they comfortably dominate both legislative chambers.
I reached out to Fernandez-Barquin for comment, but a spokesman said the legislator “is completely booked for the next several weeks.”
Yes, as dramatic testimony unfolds from witnesses to Floyd’s murder so young they can’t be shown on camera, Republicans in the Florida Legislature are hellbent on passing a bill that is only an excuse to intimidate young people and keep them from exercising their constitutional right to protest.
It is also a bill that would keep a person arrested for theft from being able to bail out of jail if the county where the crime takes place is under a state of emergency. So here are lawyers legislating to suspend the constitutional right to due process as if Florida were a Third World country.
One provision in Florida’s anti-rioting bill — prioritized by @GovRonDeSantis — that hasn’t gotten much ink would not allow a person arrested of any type of theft to bail out of jail if their county is under a state of emergency.
They don’t have to be tied to a riot. pic.twitter.com/En6w1r3VkA
— Ana Ceballos (@anaceballos_) March 29, 2021
A bill that targets Blacks
This shameful page in Florida Legislature history is nothing more than ingrained prejudice, motivated by fear of the anger of people of color, who are sick and tired of seeing the police kill their loved ones, use excessive force and get away with it most of the time.
If police were killing white people at the same rate — in public view and videotaped — nobody would be legislating against rightful anger.
The bill is prejudicial, unconstitutional and racist.