Apr 19, 2021
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Press Conference Transcript April 19: Signs Anti-Riot Bill
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a coronavirus press conference on April 19, 2021 after signing a controversial anti-riot bill. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Governor DeSantis: (00:13)
Well, good morning. I think it was in September we were here with Sheriff Judd hosting us, and we put out a vision for the state to maintain being a law and order state. We saw really unprecedented disorder and rioting throughout the summer of 2020, and we said, “That’s not going to happen here in the State of Florida,” and we wanted to make sure that we were able to protect the people of our great state, people’s businesses and property against any type of mob activity or violent assemblies. And so we had a bold vision. We worked with President Wilton Simpson and Speaker Chris Sprowls to get it done. They were able to successfully do it, and so we’re here today being prepared now to sign that bill into law.
Governor DeSantis: (01:03)
I think it’s really remarkable, if you look at the breadth of this particular piece of legislation, it is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country. And there’s just nothing even close. The bill does a number of things. One, it tackles head on this idea that we’ve seen last summer. And then we still see today that there should be a movement to defund law enforcement. Now, obviously the State of Florida, we’re not going to do that under my leadership, but if a local government were to do that, that would be catastrophic and have terrible consequences for their citizens. And so this bill actually prevents against local governments defunding law enforcement. We’ll be able to stop it at the state level. And if you look at some of these places that have done this, they’ve already seen crime go up, even just diverting some of the funding to this. And so it’s an insane theory. It’s not going to be allowed to ever carry the day in the State of Florida. And this tool, this bill gives us the tools to make sure that that doesn’t happen.
Governor DeSantis: (02:11)
It also holds local governments accountable if they fail. If we saw last summer, some of the local governance are actually telling, not necessarily in Florida, but throughout the country, basically telling these folks to stand down. Telling police to stand down while cities burnt, while businesses were burnt, while people were being harmed. That’s a dereliction of duty. And so what our bill says that I’ll sign into law today is that if you’re derelict in your duty as a local government, if you tell law enforcement to stand down, then you’re responsible for the damage that ensues. And if someone’s been harmed or their property has been destroyed, then they can sue you for compensation.
Governor DeSantis: (02:54)
We also have penalties for people that commandeer highways, which we’ve saw in other parts of the country. Just think about it. You’re driving home from work, and all of a sudden you have people out there shutting down a highway. And we worked hard to make sure that didn’t happen in Florida. They start to do that, there needs to be swift penalties, and that’s something that just cannot happen.
Governor DeSantis: (03:16)
We also saw around the country people toppling monuments of people like George Washington. This bill protects all monuments in Florida. You have no right to go in and take down monuments. We’re not going to let the mob win the day with that.
Governor DeSantis: (03:33)
The bill also includes liability for mob intimidation. If you think about it, we saw images of people just sitting outside, eating at a restaurant, and then you have this crazed mob circle around them and start screaming, and really intimidating. I’m sorry. That’s unacceptable. You’re going to be held accountable. Mind your own business and leave people alone if they’re not bothering you.
Governor DeSantis: (03:58)
And then finally, and probably maybe most importantly, if you riot, if you loot, if you harm others, particularly if you harm a law enforcement officer during one of these violent assemblies, you’re going to jail. We’re going to hold you accountable, and we’re not going to end up like Portland where this is just a daily occurrence for these people who are doing this. They get arrested, they have their mugshot taken, and then they get put right back on the street to do it again.
Governor DeSantis: (04:26)
So I think this bill that I’ll sign into law shows the State of Florida takes public safety very seriously. We believe in making sure that our streets are safe, want to make sure that that our cities are prosperous, want to make sure folks are protected, and there should be no doubt the minute I sign this bill into law, anybody who wears the uniform in service of protecting the public, this bill will make very clear, the State of Florida stands with you.
Governor DeSantis: (04:57)
So I’m going to sign the bill into law. Then we have so many great people who help make this happen, and we’re going to allow them to come up and say a few things as well. So right here.
Governor DeSantis: (05:15)
Today’s date is …
Speaker 1: (05:16)
Today is the 19th. [inaudible 00:05:22].
Governor DeSantis: (05:42)
All right. It’s done. We promised, and we did it. All right. We got it done.
Governor DeSantis: (06:09)
So we had a lot of great folks that were with us from day one. So I’m going to have a number of them come up. First of all, we’ve got a lot of great people here who are lending their support I just want to recognize. We’ve got other sheriffs. We’ve got police chiefs. We’ve got folks from the PBA. It’s really an impressive showing. Some of the folks will say a few things here. We have Senate President Wilton Simpson, Speaker Chris Sprowls, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Jimmy Patronis, our CFO, Sheriff Grady Judd, of course, here in Polk County, Wayne Ivey, Sheriff of Brevard County. And then we have the two sponsors, Senator Danny Burgess, and Representative Juan Fernandez Barquin. So I want to thank them for all their support.
Governor DeSantis: (06:53)
When we met last September, I told the then incoming Speaker and then incoming Senate President what we were wanting to do. And I can tell you, they didn’t hesitate. I mean, they were on board. They understood how important this was. And so Senator Simpson was with us from the very beginning on this. He was able to shepherd it through the Florida Senate, I think, in a really, really great fashion. And so we wouldn’t have been able to do it without having strong legislative leadership. And so I want to first bring up Senator Simpson to say a few words, and me just to thank him for his great support.
Senator Simpson: (07:39)
Thank you. And thank you, Governor, for your support, and law enforcement. We heard for so many law enforcement. And I said this earlier, but somehow this became a political hot issue, and I don’t know how it’s political to say, “We’re going to protect law enforcement,” right? We’re going to protect people’s property, and there’s going to be rules of engagement if you decide to riot. Not protest. You can peacefully protest every day, and should peacefully protest if you feel like that’s necessary. But if you cross the line and you start damaging property, you start threatening law enforcement, then this law is going to have the enhanced penalties that exist here. And I appreciate all the assistance we had from law enforcement, from the Attorney General’s office, and from the Governor’s office to make sure we were able to shepherd this through the process. And I want to thank Speaker Sprowls for his steadfastness in this process also. And thank you, Governor.
Governor DeSantis: (08:35)
Great. Thank you. And the Speaker, Chris Sprowls, was also instrumental, very supportive from day one. Chris has a background as a prosecutor. He understands law enforcement. Very strong supporter of the folks that wear the uniform, and they did a really good job in the House getting this through. So Chris.
Speaker Chris Sprowls: (09:01)
Thank you, Governor, and thank you, President Simpson for that and for all the-
Speaker Chris Sprowls: (09:03)
Thank you Governor, and thank you, President Simpson for that. And for all the folks who are here, the Attorney General, the CFO, and the many folks and men and women in law enforcement who were here. Many politicians across the country say things, but not that many do things. Seven months ago, we were here at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, I think the last time that certainly that I was back, to announce this bill along with the Governor, along with President Simpson and with many of the folks who are behind us here today. And we made a promise to Floridians, the promise was we weren’t going to allow Florida to become Seattle. We weren’t going to allow Florida to become Portland. We weren’t going to allow Florida to become the city of New York and Chicago and Los Angeles.
Speaker Chris Sprowls: (09:36)
That here in the state of Florida, we believed in the rule of law. We believe that if you’re a business owner, that you have the right to have law enforcement protect your business, not to be burned down like the Champ’s Sporting Goods store, not far from here in Hillsborough county. If you’re driving your kids to school or you’re coming home from work in the evening, you have the right to do so safely without having your car surrounded by folks who are threatening you and banging on your windshield and climbing on your car like happened in St. Petersburg, not far from here. We made a promise to Floridians that here in the state of Florida, that we were going to push back on that, that we were going to protect our law enforcement officers. Governor DeSantis, seven months ago, stood here and made that promise, as did President Simpson, myself, Sheriff Judd and others. And we’re happy today that we can deliver on that promise.
Speaker Chris Sprowls: (10:19)
People throughout the country are going to be talking about this bill later today. And the thing is, is that people can say, “Well, what if we didn’t do this bill? What if we allowed lawlessness? What if we allowed our businesses to be burned down or our cars to be surrounded or our police officers to be hurt? Or we let people go to jail for a few hours and come right back to the protest, what would happen?” And the reality is we don’t have to guess. All we have to do is look across the country, look at Portland and Seattle and New York and LA, because they’re doing all of those things. And you know what, their arrests are down and their crime rates are skyrocketing. Their homicide rates are through the roof. Their violent crime rates are through the roof.
Speaker Chris Sprowls: (10:54)
Their cities are being ravaged by crime as a result of that lawlessness, and Governor Ron DeSantis said it best, the leadership or lack thereof in those cities who stood down and stood back and said, “We’re not going to arrest people for committing crimes. We’re not going to arrest people who are being violent or hurting police officers.” Who they are hurting most are the people who need their protection the most in those communities who are vulnerable. We won’t do that here in Florida, and that’s what this bill is all about. And Senate President Simpson said it best, and he’s been such an amazing partner in the Senate. The Senate and the House have worked hand in hand, arm in arm to get this bill passed.
Speaker Chris Sprowls: (11:31)
But I can tell you that people talk about peaceful protesting, of all the violence and destruction out there, I think it’s worth noting that there were heroic stories of truly peaceful protesters who locked arms to protect someone’s small business or locked arms to protect people who were in uniform. And our message to those people is, you’re still protected because you’re peaceful. There’s nothing in this 60 page bill that makes it a crime to be a peaceful protester. What it does do is make it a crime to violent. It makes it a crime to engage in lawlessness and destruction, because those are things that we’re not going to tolerate here in Florida. I’m so proud that we got to work with the governor, there is no governor in America who has been more bold in defending our law enforcement in our communities than Governor Ron DeSantis. And we’re so happy and pleased about that.
Speaker Chris Sprowls: (12:16)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t think Representative Juan Fernandez-Barquin from Miami who carried this bill through the House, and Senator Danny Burgess who carried it through the Senate, they had the hard work of shepherding these bills through the committee process, hours and hours of questioning on the floor. They did an amazing job, and it’s great stand here today with these great folks behind us to say, we will protect your business, we will protect your safety and we will not allow for lawlessness here in the state of Florida. Thank you, Governor. I appreciate it.
Governor DeSantis: (12:49)
And I think you’re looking as the speaker said, these areas that defunded part of law enforcement or that just turn their backs on law enforcement, they are paying the bill. You look at the crime in these areas, I mean, it’s a total disaster what’s been going on, and this law protects Floridians from having that happen. But you also look to see what’s going on, just the other day, you have politicians like Maxine Waters, demanding people be confrontational in the streets. And that is totally, totally unacceptable. She says, “If we don’t get a certain verdict in this George Floyd officer trial, that they’re then going to do stuff.”
Governor DeSantis: (13:31)
And first of all, part of the reason… There may be some people disappointed, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can tell you that case was bungled by the Attorney General there in Minnesota, that they didn’t handle it properly. And so there may be people disappointed. I don’t know, we’ll see. But there’s a reason for that, and it goes back to some of the missteps that were made early on.
Governor DeSantis: (13:53)
Fortunately, we have an Attorney General here who understands how to handle these things, is a very strong supporter of law enforcement and I think really serves as a model about how you go about doing the job. So, I’m proud to call her a friend and I really appreciate her watching the fort for the people of Florida as our Attorney General Ashley Moody.
Attorney General Ashley Moody: (14:20)
Thank you so much. And thank you to all who attended today to give attention to this important piece of legislation. Thank you, President Simpson and Speaker Sprowls for your leadership. Governor DeSantis, let me just say, there are self-proclaimed leaders out there across the nation that purport to lead, when in fact they work against the safety and security of their communities and do nothing but twiddle their thumbs as their citizens sit in violence and crime. And I thank you for actually leading, not calling yourself a leader, but leading, and all of us in this room believe that, thank you so much. Last year was a very difficult challenging year for law enforcement. Nationwide, we lost double the amount of law enforcement officers to death than we did the year prior. And as protests erupted in Florida, those sometimes turned very violent towards law enforcement. And I sat on the phone with some of our leaders, as they said, “What are we supposed to do in these crowds when our officers are trapped in a car? What are we supposed to do when our law enforcement officers have projectiles thrown at them, bricks, glass, you name it?” And they turned to the leadership in Florida and asked, “Please help us.” Because the folks standing behind us, the law enforcement officers you see, they know that when they signed up and took the oath, they were going to protect people’s rights. That’s what they want to do, protect life and property. Everyone behind me knows the difference between a peaceful protest and a violent riot. Every one of these.
Attorney General Ashley Moody: (16:03)
And I would ask those that have put officers’ lives in danger, assaulted them, attacked them during these incidents, I would ask them to trade places and ask whether they would have supported this legislation. This bill will go a long way in ensuring Florida never becomes Portland, and ensuring that Florida cities are safe from violence and riots. And Governor, we thank you again for leading on this issue. The senators and representatives that really stood up and said, “We’ve got law enforcement’s back.” We asked them to take an oath to protect and serve us, and they do willingly. We have to as leaders, tell them that we’re here for them when they go in and do these dangerous jobs to ensure order in our community. So thank you so much for being here today, to shine a light on this important topic. We have to be out front on this, we have to lead to ensure that we can continue to attract good men and women of integrity into our law enforcement ranks. Thank you so much.
Governor DeSantis: (17:13)
Well, thanks, Ashley. And we’re also here doing this bill, signing this into law, very important, standing by law enforcement. We’re also working to shepherd through $1,000 bonuses for our law enforcement, first responders, fire, because it has been a very difficult year in more ways than one. So we’re looking forward to hopefully getting that done as well. And I know one of the folks who’s a big leader for our firemen is our CFO Jimmy Patronis, I want to bring him up.
Jimmy Patronis: (17:46)
Thanks, Governor. Folks, Governor DeSantis has done it again. As businesses and citizens flee states like Oregon, and Chicago, and Illinois and New York, they come to Florida to the tune of over 900 every single day. But we’ll make sure to make it loud and clear that we will put the citizens safe…
Jimmy Patronis: (18:03)
But we’ll make sure to make it loud and clear that we will put the citizens’ safety in Florida first. We watch cities like Portland and New York and Seattle burn to the ground because politicians turn their backs on law enforcement. Luckily, we have a different approach here in Florida. From the Portlands of the world to the Chicagos of the world, we love and appreciate our law enforcement community. Unfortunately, anti-law, anti-law enforcement sentiments in certain portions of our nation are breaking out. Florida is going to make sure we make it loud and clear that our laws are keeping up with the times and that we do everything possible to make sure that we back our law enforcement. I tell people all the time, as Florida’s got such an amazing economy there’s an element to it that we don’t talk about enough and that’s the safety net that works 24/7, 365 in every single one of our communities.
Jimmy Patronis: (18:53)
Businesses will not relocate to an area that they don’t feel like their investment will be safe. They will not relocate to an area where their employees aren’t safe. Families will not move their families to go to communities unless those communities that are safe. Law enforcement and our first responders play an integral part in ensuring that the economy of the state of Florida is as robust and as strong as it is. It’s time that we stepped up. Governor, thank you for signing this law into effect. But let’s make it clear, this law makes the civil protests okay, but this law makes violent protests illegal in the state of Florida. I want to thank Governor DeSantis, Speaker Sprowls, and President Simpson for their leadership on this. And gentlemen and ladies, thank you so much for what you do every single day as you take time away from your families to keep this state safe. God bless.
Governor DeSantis: (19:50)
When we wanted to do this, we obviously made the announcement here, and one of the reasons we did is because the Sheriff of Polk County Grady Judd, I was all in on this from the beginning, 100% supportive, and offered whatever assistance he could have. And so we really appreciate support of all the law enforcement, but particularly those who are with us immediately. And so I want Sheriff Judd, who’s hosting us here today, to come up and say a few things.
Sherriff Grady Judd: (20:20)
Thank you, Governor. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve had the privilege of being in law enforcement my entire adult life and I’ve worked with the legislature for a majority of my law enforcement career in my adult life. Never have I seen the leadership that I see with Governor DeSantis, with Speaker Sprowls, and with President Simpson. They’re making a positive difference, not for government, but for the people of the state of Florida, Florida is a unique place and a special place. It’s where we work, where we live, but it’s also where the world comes to play, to bring their children, and their children have a right to be safe. And that’s guaranteed under the leadership of our Governor, our Speaker, our President, and the way we do business in Florida.
Sherriff Grady Judd: (21:20)
You can compare and contrast. Look at Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis. That’s no way to treat the community. That’s no way to treat those that have put their entire life into building their business. We saw folks’ businesses burned around this nation who literally had worked their entire life and had every penny of their life savings involved. And what our Governor said is, “That’s not happening here and we’re going to be proactive and we’re going to make sure people are safe.” Well, it might come as a surprise to you Governor.
Governor DeSantis: (22:04)
There you go.
Sherriff Grady Judd: (22:06)
I want to make sure everybody knows this is a peaceful protest. We encourage it. It’s the foundation of our country and we want people to peacefully protest when they feel the need. This is a riot and this will get you locked up before quick in the state of Florida. Pay attention. We’ve got a new law and we’re going to use it if you make us. We’re going to protect the people. No longer will people walk up and surround you as a citizen of Florida or a visitor of Florida, surround you while you’re eating dinner at an outdoor cafe in a big mob without there being immediate consequences and arrest. It’s not acceptable. Well, there’s always some that don’t get it the first time. Peaceful protest, we encourage. And more riot. We can tell the difference, and I’ll guarantee you that you’ll be able to tell the difference if you come here and riot. If you come here and protest peacefully, we encourage that.
Sherriff Grady Judd: (23:24)
But why is all of this important? I’ll tell you why. I’ve got something I want you to see. This is what we enjoy in Florida. This is the Florida we know in love. This is what our Governor, our Speaker, our President, this is what all these law enforcement officers and administrators and sheriffs and police chiefs and their officers do every day. They guarantee an environment where you can come here and have fun. Heck, you can even have more fun. Here’s another picture. This is the Florida we know and love. We’re a special place and there are millions and millions of people who like to come here, and quite frankly, we like to have them here. So we only want to share one thing as you move in hundreds a day, welcome to Florida, but don’t register to vote and vote the stupid way you did up north or you’ll get what they got. There’s a reason that this place is fun. There’s a reason why we have a 49 year low crime rate. And the same people that don’t think we should have an anti-rioting bill or a rioting bill are the same ones that think we ought to let more people out of prison. And where they’re doing that, as the Governor and our speakers have alluded to, crime goes up, but it’s not just crime that goes up, victimization goes up. The people in those states are hurt and killed and their livelihoods changed and their children are changed. So when I look at this President, I know my children and my grandchildren are safer today than they’ve ever been because of his leadership and the leadership of our Speaker and our President and the wonderful men and women and the sheriffs that are here. God bless you all.
Governor DeSantis: (25:40)
Well, it wouldn’t be a Grady Judd press conference without some visual aids. I also want to recognize the Brevard Sheriff, Wayne Ivey. He was with us on this from the very beginning. He’s also been working very closely with us dealing with other public safety issues, such as the new administration’s decision to be releasing convicted criminal aliens. We believe they should be removed once they’ve served their prison sentence, and so we’re working hard to mitigate any damage from that. And Wayne Ivey’s been been there with us every step of the way. So Sheriff.
Sheriff Wayne Ivey: (26:16)
Good morning. Much like Sheriff Judd, I’ve spent my entire adult life in uniform as a law enforcement officer. Certainly, not as long, but I’ve done it since my adult life started, and I will tell you that I’ve learned two things along the way. One, that crime will rise to the level a community will tolerate. And two, government’s one and only responsibility is to protect its citizens, and that’s exactly what this law does. Since day one, Governor DeSantis has stood beside law enforcement officers in our mission to protect the state of Florida, to protect the visitors, the citizens, and everything that we are blessed to have in this great state. He and his team have made sure that we have the resources we need, and today he takes another step further in that commitment to protect the state of Florida.
Sheriff Wayne Ivey: (27:03)
… he takes another step further in that commitment to protect the State of Florida, by giving us another tool in our toolbox. Structured to make sure that it protects free speech and the right to peaceful and respectful marches. It also gives law enforcement the teeth they need to hold those accountable that commit violence, destruction, mayhem on those here on our State of Florida. And I will tell you that having had a chance to work with Governor DeSantis, this has been his mission since the very beginning, to protect our citizens, our cops, and our constitution. And he has been unwavering in that stance. This bill is exactly what we need to guarantee the safety of all who stand in Florida. This bill is actually a model. Other states right now ought to be running around, trying to get a copy of this, so they can duplicate it and put it into effect in their state.
Sheriff Wayne Ivey: (27:59)
Because like I said, at the very beginning, crime will rise to the level that a community will tolerate. And Governor DeSantis has championed this bill to make sure everybody understands that we do not tolerate crime in the State of Florida. We don’t tolerate violence, we don’t tolerate looting, and we don’t tolerate any type of intimidation. So I want to thank everybody that took a part in this, our legislature, our attorney general, our CFO, all of the law enforcement officers that helped to structure this bill so that it protects everything in our constitution. I want to thank all of them and certainly thank Governor DeSantis for his leadership along the way. Thank you, sir.
Governor DeSantis: (28:42)
Thank you. All right. Well, last but certainly not least, we have our two legislators who helped shepherd this through. So we’ll start with Senator Danny Burgess, who did a fantastic job over in the Florida Senate.
Senator Danny Burgess: (28:57)
Appreciate it. Good morning, everybody. A couple of hard acts to follow, so I should just say what they said. But I think what I’ll say, and I’ll be brief, because there’s not a whole lot more that I could add to this. And the importance of signing this legislation is something I’ve found is it’s often never easy at all to do what’s right. And there is never an easy day for the men and women in uniform who stand behind us. And so, I believe that the State of Florida, and I think we would agree that this is the least we could do to have their backs during these challenging, challenging times. We certainly saw our share of unrest here in our state, but it was not at the levels that we witnessed across the nation. And that’s because we are a state of law and order, that we have the backs of our law enforcement, that we have a governor and a senate president and a speaker who will always fight for what’s right and stand for those in blue.
Senator Danny Burgess: (29:54)
Thank you to our attorney general. Thank you to our CFO. Thank you to all the sheriffs behind us. And Governor, I’m not surprised at all that you committed to get this done and that you delivered. As your executive director at FDVA, you impressed me time and time again. And when you put your mind to something, you get it done. And so this is just par for the course. And I just can’t tell you enough how proud I am to have stood there with you all and had the opportunity to support our law enforcement and to ensure that Florida will not ever devolve into what we witnessed across the nation over the summer. Thank you and God bless you. We salute you and we appreciate you. Thank you.
Governor DeSantis: (30:29)
Okay. So thanks, Danny. And then, we also had very good work in the House and the House passed it first and then went over the Senate. So Juan, you want to come up and say a few words?
Yes, thank you. Thank you, governor. You know, for everybody that says that there wasn’t rioting in Florida, there was. There was rioting in Miami. There was a rioting in Jacksonville. And there was rioting in Tampa. Most important of all, we got to think about the people who are adversely affected by the rioting. We’ve got to think about the owners of the Saigon Bay Restaurant, right next to the Champs Sports in Hillsborough county. We got to think about the couple who owned that restaurant, the couple who saw the protests happening outside and thought everything was going to be okay.
And that same couple got a call at 1:00 in the morning from their neighbor, the jewelry store just over that was being looted and was informed that the restaurant was on fire. We have to think about those innocent individuals, and this bill protects peaceful protestors, residents, and most important of all, law enforcement. Thank you so much governor for your leadership. Thank you, President Simpson. Thank you, Speaker Sprouse. And thank you, Senator Burgess. It was a pleasure working with you. Thank you.
Governor DeSantis: (31:48)
Great. Well, thanks everybody for being back here. Thanks for your support. Thanks for what you guys did over the summer. Because I mean, we were ready. And as was mentioned, I mean, you did have some issues. But I think what happened was law enforcement was there. We were all on the same page. I mean, we had National Guard ready to be deployed if needed. And so we didn’t see it get out of hand like we did, but I think this bill will help us even more going forward. So, great. All right. I got to catch a flight so I’m out, but thanks everybody.