Here's why Ron DeSantis' new stand-your-ground proposal is so disturbing
Like many other states in the U.S., Florida experienced civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. And this month, the Miami Herald reports, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing for an expansion of the state's stand-your-ground law as part of "anti-mob" legislation.
But critics of the proposal are expressing concerns that it could lead to acts of vigilante justice.
Denise Georges, a former prosecutor for Miami-Dade County, told the Herald: "It allows for vigilantes to justify their actions. It also allows for death to be the punishment for a property crime — and that is cruel and unusual punishment. We cannot live in a lawless society where taking a life is done so casually and recklessly."
The debate over what constitutes vigilante justice and what constitutes self-defense is not a new one in Florida. Sanford, Florida is where, on February 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot during an altercation with Sanford resident George Zimmerman — and Martin's death was followed by many heated debates over whether Zimmerman acted in self-defense or conducted himself like a vigilante. In July 2013, a jury acquitted Zimmerman of manslaughter and second-degree murder charges.
Eight years after Martin's death, Floridians are debating DeSantis' proposed expansion of Florida's stand-your-ground law.
Miami Herald reporters Ana Ceballos and David Ovalle explain: "The draft legislation put specifics behind DeSantis' pledge, in September, to crack down on 'violent and disorderly assemblies' after he pointed to 'reports of unrest' in other parts of the country after the high-profile death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a White Minneapolis police officer. The proposal would expand the list of 'forcible felonies' under Florida's self-defense law to justify the use of force against people who engage in criminal mischief that results in the 'interruption or impairment' of a business, and looting — which the draft defines as a burglary within 500 feet of a 'violent or disorderly assembly.'"
According to Ceballos and Ovalle, "Other key elements of DeSantis' proposal would enhance criminal penalties for people involved in 'violent or disorderly assemblies,' make it a third-degree felony to block traffic during a protest, offer immunity to drivers who claim to have unintentionally killed or injured protesters who block traffic, and withhold state funds from local governments that cut law enforcement budgets."
The far-right DeSantis has been a major ally of President Donald Trump, who carried Florida by 4% in the United States' 2020 presidential election but was voted out of office when President-elect Joe Biden received more than 270 electoral votes. Biden lost Florida but won the election, and Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber criticized DeSantis for pandering to Trump supporters with his stand-your-ground proposal.
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