Florida signs bill into law banning protests outside homes

Protests outside homes are now banned in Florida after the state’s rightwing Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, signed a bill into law prohibiting such demonstrations.

DeSantis, who is both an ally and potential 2024 rival to Donald Trump, is a rising star in Republican circles as he courts the party’s rightwing base and eyes a possible White House run.

A prepared statement from DeSantis on the bill-signing on Monday cited liberal picketing outside the homes of conservative US supreme court justices following the leak on 2 May of a draft ruling which showed the court was ready to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision that essentially legalized abortion nationwide.

The protests outside the justices’ homes generally have been peaceful and within bounds of the US constitution’s first amendment, which guarantees citizens the right to freely express themselves and assemble peaceably. Nonetheless, DeSantis’s statement labeled those protesting for the protection of abortion rights as “unruly mobs”.

“Sending unruly mobs to private residences, like we have seen with the angry crowds in front of the homes of supreme court justices, is inappropriate,” DeSantis said. “This bill will provide protection to those living in residential communities and I am glad to sign it into law.”

Florida’s ban on so-called residential picketing won passage in the state’s house of representatives and the senate by votes of 76-41 and 28-3, respectively. House Bill 1571 takes effect on 1 October and calls for those found guilty of breaking the new law to face up to 60 days in jail as well as a maximum fine of $500.

The legislation comes a week after DeSantis signed into law a bill requiring that Florida students receive at least 45 minutes’ instruction about the “victims of communism” on 7 November. That action came after DeSantis endorsed a state ban on discussions of gender identity and sexual preference through its “don’t say gay” law.

And DeSantis – a self-professed opponent of student “indoctrination” – also signed into law a ban on dozens of mathematics textbooks which purportedly reference critical race theory, the academic practice that examines how racism operates in US laws and society.

The protesters criticized by DeSantis are concerned by how abortion would be outlawed almost overnight in 26 states – more than half the country – if the leaked provisional decision that showed five conservatives on the nine-justice supreme court had voted to reverse Roe v Wade becomes final.

While conservatives have hailed the leak, liberals have protested against it, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets this past Saturday to signal their support for the rights granted through Roe v Wade.

US senators last week swiftly passed legislation expanding security for supreme court justices and their immediate family members in the wake of the leaked draft ruling. But the bill is awaiting approval from the US House.

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