Lawsuit claims Florida's anti-riot bill is unconstitutional, infringes on free speech

Legislation "unconstitutionally targets protected speech," lawyer's group claims.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
(Joe Raedle/Getty)

A lawsuit directed at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis claims that the state's recently passed anti-rioting bill enacts unconstitutional restrictions on First Amendment speech in that state. 

The lawsuit, brought by a coalition billing itself as the Lawyers Matter Task Force, claims that Florida's "Combatting Public Disorder" law runs afoul of speech protected by the U.S. Constitution. 

The bill stipulates in part that protesters “may not willfully obstruct the free, convenient, and normal use of a public street, highway, or road” by impeding traffic. It also imposes additional penalties for breaking the law in furtherance of a riot. 

The group says that the bill “unconstitutionally threatens to impose liability on individuals expressing their rights to free speech regardless of their intent to incite violence, the likelihood that their speech will result in violence, or the imminence of the intended violence.”

The bill itself “is unconstitutionally vague, such that it does not provide individuals proper notice of what forms of free speech will expose them to civil and criminal liability and invites arbitrary enforcement," they argue further. 

DeSantis's office in response said it would "firmly defend the legal merits of [the bill], which protects businesses, supports law enforcement and ensures punishment for those who cause violence in our communities."