DeSantis Prioritizes Criminalizing Protest Over Helping Floridians in Potential Special Session

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On Tuesday, Governor DeSantis said that he would push to prioritize his criminalization of protest and anti-first amendment bill in any special legislative session that occurs, even the one-day procedural session in November.  In response Florida Democratic Party Chair Terri Rizzo released the following statement:  “Governor Ron DeSantis needs to get his priorities straight. The lives and livelihoods of many Floridians have been impacted by a set of concurrent crises, from the aftermath of Hurricane Sally in the panhandle, to COVID-19, to a broken unemployment system, and a lack of healthcare access, Floridians desperately need resources from the state and for months Governor DeSantis has failed to deliver.  “Now instead of focusing on the actual needs of our communities, Governor Ron DeSantis wants to focus any upcoming legislative time on a political stunt to criminalize protest and strip people of their rights. This is deeply disappointing, but not surprising.  The Florida Democratic Party  stands with our vulnerable residents and those impacted by Hurricane Sally and urges Governor DeSantis and the Republican legislators to refocus their priorities on things that our communities actually need.”

A report in the Sun Sentinel on Tuesday further outlined Florida Democrats’ reactions to this ludicrous bill and the suggested Republican priorities of a special session.  Sun Sentinel: Florida lawmakers blast DeSantis: ‘Mr. Governor, you have 99 problems, but protesters ain’t one’By Wayne K. Roustan | September 23, 2020  KEY EXCERPTS:  

  • The Democratic lawmakers and community leaders said penalizing the First Amendment right to assemble is unconstitutional. “Governor, with all due respect, you’ve just declared war on our civil rights,” said state Rep. Shevrin Jones.
  • The Governor, also on Tuesday, called on fellow Republican legislators to pass his proposals to increase criminal penalties against protesters as soon as November instead of waiting until the next regular session in March. Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo-Smith welcomed a special session, but to address COVID-19, unemployment, evictions, business bankruptcies and other priorities in Florida.
  • “If you want to call a special session, call that right now,” he [Senator Oscar Braynon] said. “But, I will call [DeSantis] on this B.S., in this special session [which] is strictly about elections and electioneering.”
  • “You already have laws on the books to address vandalism, to address looting,” said state Rep. Anna Eskamani. “We know this has nothing to do with public safety. It will lead to the arrests of more Black and brown people.”
  • “Leave it to Florida’s Republicans to give 100% to a 10% problem while they give zero effort to the real problems affecting Floridians,” she [Representative Fentrice Driskell] said. “Mr. Governor, you have 99 problems, but protesters ain’t one.”
  • “For those who may be feeling like the government is putting its knee on your neck,” said Driskell. “This November you have to exercise your power to vote.”

Commissioner Fried’s Response Following Voting Rights Activist Desmond Meade Pardon Request Being Denied

Today, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, an independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet and Clemency Board, offered the following statement regarding today’s meeting of the Clemency Board: “Florida’s broken Clemency system is restrictive, arbitrary, and designed to fail our citizens seeking a fresh start. It’s an absolute mockery that in nearly two years under Governor DeSantis, only 30 Floridians have earned back their rights, compared to 234,000 under his three predecessors. Just today, justice wasn’t approved for Desmond Meade, a Floridian whose redemption should be an example to us all – proving that we judge people only by their worst days. As I’ve said before, we can fix this. We can change our Clemency rules to automatically restore rights for those who serve their time and pay their dues, as under then-Governor Crist. We can clear the backlog of 11,000 Floridians waiting for a hearing, and the more than 850 eligible today for rights restoration without a hearing. We can drop the endless appeals of Amendment 4 at taxpayer expense. If restoring and protecting Floridians’ constitutional rights were a priority for this Governor, it would happen – but it’s not, so it won’t. And that’s a damn shame.” Background: Commissioner Fried has been a strong proponent of reforming Florida’s clemency rules, called “crushingly restrictive” and growing harder. She has repeatedly called for the adoption of new clemency rules automatically restoring civil and voting rights, through letters to her Clemency Board colleagues and town hall meetings across the state, and for clearing the backlog of 11,000 clemency applicants for Restoration of Civil Rights. Fried has called multiple times on the Governor to grant Restoration of Civil Rights to the more than 850 applicants eligible without a hearing, and has also suggested a return to clemency rules adopted under former Governor Crist in 2007 which restored civil rights to non-violent ex-felons who served their time, paid restitution to victims, and did not have further pending criminal charges. Voting Rights Restoration: Under Governor DeSantis, just 30 Floridians have had their voting rights restored; more than 234,000 Floridians were granted back voting rights under DeSantis’ predecessors Governors Crist (155,000), Bush (76,000) and Scott (3,000).

Ahead of Latinos for Trump Event, Former Hispanic United States Attorney Calls out Trump’s Hypocrisy

Ahead of Trump’s visit to Miami on Friday and the Latinos for Trump event, former Bush appointed United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Marcos Jiménez released the following statement:
“I’m a proud Cuban-American and a former Republican who is not afraid to call out Donald Trump’s failed leadership, disregard for the rule of law, and hypocrisy directed toward the Cuban people. Since the end of the Obama administration, the number of Cubans deported from the US has increased more than tenfold. Trump refuses asylum to Cubans who present themselves at the border. Here at home, his incompetent management of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on Florida Hispanics’ lives, health and pocketbooks.
“Friday’s visit will not change his pandering to foreign governments like Russia that seek to undermine American democracy. He doesn’t care that for decades Russia worked with the Castro regime to subjugate the Cuban people. He even stood next to Putin in Helsinki and said he believed Putin over our own intelligence agencies. His explicit hypocrisy as it relates to U.S.-Cuba relations was made all the more clear in yesterday’s reporting that Trump registered his trademark in Cuba in 2008 to build hotels, casinos and golf courses, which would have allowed him to pursue business in Cuba until it expired in 2018. Friday’s visit is all smoke and mirrors, and we should hold him to account at the ballot box in November.”

Commissioner Nikki Fried’s Response to Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Request for an Investigation into the FRRC

Today, Attorney General Ashley Moody sent a letter to the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement asking them to open an investigation into recent donations to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. Once again making access to the ballot box a partisan issue.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, offered the following statement in response : “Florida Republicans will stop at nothing to prevent people from voting, and this is another ploy to suppress the voices of those trying to regain their right to vote. Whether Mike Bloomberg, John Legend, or LeBron James, these are contributions made legally and in good faith to FRRC’s mission of helping people rightfully regain the right to vote. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue — more than 5 million Floridians on both sides of the aisle voted for this in 2018.
“It’s unfortunate that the Republican Party views denying people the right to vote as a necessity in their path to victory in 2020.”

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