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Is the Protest Law Protecting or Infringing or First Amendment Rights?

Various BLM protestors participate in a peaceful demonstration.

Controversial protest law has several gaps and issues in it

BLM protestors demonstration - Is the Protest Law Protecting or Infringing or First Amendment Rights?

A federal appeals court challenged Gov. Ron DeSantis on his controversial protest law that was signed into place last year. The law came in light of mass protests and demonstrations against police brutality, state-sanctioned violence, and other causes across the country.

The law allows the state and law enforcement to crack down on protestors and rioters who disrupt public peace, engage in violence and illegal activities.

How the public reacted to the introduction of the protest law

Last year, the public had a major reaction to this Republican-backed law officiated during a ceremony in April 2021. It was described as vague, unclear, and said to give too much power to the police.

Among the parties and organizations that challenged the law were The Dream Defenders, the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, who went to federal court to appeal it.

However, in September, a preliminary injunction prevented DeSantis and the three sheriffs who were listed as defendants from enforcing it. The injunction by Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker was appealed by Gov. DeSantis, who described it to be the “strongest anti-rioting, most pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country.” in the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Issues that were raised in the appeals court this week

However, the three-judge panel that heard the appeal remained skeptical as well. Highlighting the same issue that critics of the law had, they also felt that it was unclear and vague and ran the risk of hurting innocent protestors. The protest law has the potential to violate First Amendment rights by infringing on the right to protest.

Jason Hilborn, who is the state deputy solicitor general representing DeSantis, continued to argue that the law is only aimed at rioters and those engaging in acts of violence, but the panel could not find a difference between the common law definition of a riot and that within this law.

Deliberation continued in court with attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendants, addressing the judges’ panel and unconvincing arguments, issues, and loopholes being discussed in light of this law.

Right now, a decision has not been made about the injunction.

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