I wish I could say the state of our politics in our great state has changed, and In a way, I guess it has changed. Unfortunately the change has been for the worse. In April , HB 1 was signed into law, under the guise of, " Combating Public Disorder." Now let me make one thing clear, I believe in the right to protest PEACEFULLY. It is protected under the First Amendment. What I do not condone rioting. We can disagree without being disagreeable. Lets define the two because I'm personally tired of people using the terms protest and riot interchangeably. They are not. A peaceful protest is statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something. A riot is a violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd. Two completely different actions. Now here is where the smoke an mirrors began. This bill creates a new felony and defines riots in terms that are vague and can easily be interpreted differently by different police agencies across the state.The law now defines what a riot is as what occurs when someone “willfully participates in a violent public disturbance involving an assembly of three or more persons, acting with a common intent to assist each other in violent and disorderly conduct, resulting in Injury to another person; Damage to property; or Imminent danger of injury to another person or damage to property.”
Additionally, HB 1 created a new second degree felony called an “aggravated riot” where there are more than 25 participants. Does Guinness have a record for the worlds smallest riot. 3 people sounds like a setup to me but that a whole other topic.
I support of men and women in Law Enforcement. They need laws that are clearly written without politically biased overtones in order to not only enforce the law uniformly, but to maintain continuity in community policing. The partnership between the police and the community, is key in the reduction of crime, high crime neighborhoods. This bill does not make the job of distinguished Sheriffs like Chad Chronister of the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Department, any easier. Sheriff Chronister emphasizes community policing to his deputies. He also believes in equal application of the law to all citizens.
HB 1 Was a rushed bill created for the sole purpose of Providing some with political cover from events that were going on all over the country because unarmed citizens were being meet with lethal force. Sheriff Chronister was quoted in the Tampa Bay times as saying, "I fully support the efforts to enhance penalties for those who turn to actions that damage neighborhoods and businesses and acts of violence towards those who serve our community,” I could not agree with him more. Unfortunately HB1 does not do that in a way that helps Law Enforcement. It has the opposite effect of making there jobs more difficult and community policing impossible.
Sheriff Chronister is proof that when you stand on principle, you cant be blown over by ever changing political winds. That's why he received overwhelming bipartisan support in his reelection. He does not enforce the law as a Republican or a Democrat, he enforces the law as a husband, a father, and an American Citizen. As your next State Senator representing district 20, I will continue to reach across the political spectrum to people like Sheriff Chronister who embraces the human nature in us all and see everyone as people first instead of votes.