DeSantis asks protesters to stay out of Florida roads in reversal on anti-riot law

“DeSantis pushed the ‘anti-riot” bill in the aftermath of last year’s racial justice protests that spread across the nation — and even cited protesters blocking roads as a justification for the measure that includes extra penalties for people accused of participating in riots and violent protests.

But Democrats and other critics of the law — which is being challenged in federal court — accused DeSantis and other Republicans of supporting selective enforcement of the measure. They said the measure was designed to target Black protesters upset with police shootings. But now DeSantis and other GOP leaders are in a difficult position since they support the aims of many of the demonstrators backing Cuba in Miami and elsewhere.

This week, demonstrators blocked major roadways for hours in Miami-Dade County without any reports of arrests or citations. But the Tampa Bay Times reported on Wednesday that two demonstrators in Tampa were held in jail overnight without bail because of a provision in the new law.
On Tuesday, DeSantis sidestepped a question about whether authorities should arrest people blocking roads as part of protests in solidarity with Cuba. Those demonstrations popped up in several cities as Cuban Americans voice their support to Cuban protesters who are demanding an end to the authoritarian regime that has controlled the island nation for the past six decades.

On Thursday, the governor reversed course and said that authorities could not “tolerate” people blocking roads.
“It’s dangerous for you to be shutting down a thoroughfare,” DeSantis said during a press conference with Florida GOP Reps. María Salazar and Carlos Giménez calling on the Biden administration to help restore Internet access to Cuba. “You’re also putting other people in jeopardy. You don’t know if an emergency vehicle needs to get somewhere and then obviously it’s just disrespectful to make people stand in traffic.”

DeSantis repeated his assertion that his ‘anti-riot’ bill was meant to crackdown on violent protesters.”

State-level Republicans are making it easier to run over protesters

“In the wake of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, Republican lawmakers are advancing a a number of new anti-protest measures at the state level — including multiple bills that specifically make it easier for drivers to run down protesters.

The most recent example of such a law came Wednesday, when Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a new law that effectively allows drivers to hit people with a car in a specific set of circumstances.

Under the new law, an Oklahoma driver will no longer be liable for striking — or even killing — a person if the driver is “fleeing from a riot … under a reasonable belief that fleeing was necessary to protect the motor vehicle operator from serious injury or death.”

The measure also creates new penalties for protesters who obstruct streets or vehicle traffic, including hefty fines of up to $5,000 and as much as a year in jail.”

“If the recent spate of anti-protest measures in Florida, Iowa, and Oklahoma is disturbing on its face, however, context does little to make it better. There is a specific history in the US of the far right using cars as weapons, and it’s not hard to see how bills like the one that is now law in Oklahoma might only make things worse.

The most notable example is from August 2017: Heyer, 32, was struck and killed and at least 19 others were injured when neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. rammed a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville. Fields has since been sentenced to life in prison.

But it’s more than that single incident. According to Ari Weil, the deputy research director for the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, there were at least 72 incidents of cars driving into protesters over a relatively short span in 2020, from May 27 through July 7.

Examples aren’t hard to find. There’s even a Wikipedia page specifically dedicated to “vehicle-ramming incidents during George Floyd protests.” And as Weil explained in an interview with Vox’s Alex Ward last year, “there’s an online environment that for years has been celebrating and encouraging these types of horrendous attacks.”

“What’s particularly worrisome is where those memes spread,” Weil told Vox. “I know of at least four cases where law enforcement officers were sharing these in Facebook groups. [Fields] shared these memes twice in two months before his attack, and other planners of the Unite the Right rally shared these, too.””

“Even more concerning, it’s not always just random people driving through protests. In several cases, police have also used their cars as weapons against protesters. In Detroit last June, an officer drove his police SUV through a crowd, sending protesters flying; two New York police officers did likewise at a Black Lives Matter protest in May 2020.”

Judge Orders Federal Officers in Portland To Stop Harassing and Assaulting Journalists and Legal Observers

“The ACLU’s complaint, filed on behalf of the Portland Mercury, eight journalists, and two observers working with the ACLU, alleges that federal agents stationed at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse have joined local police in violating those principles. On July 12, for instance, federal officers shot photographer Mathieu Lewis-Rolland 10 times with “impact munitions” that left “severe lacerations, welts, and bruises all over his upper body.” According to the Geneva Guidelines on Less-Lethal Weapons and Related Equipment in Law Enforcement, such projectiles “should generally only be used in direct fire against the lower body of a violent individual when a substantial risk exists of immediate serious injury to either a law enforcement official or a member of the public.”

The complaint alleges many similar abuses by Portland police, including the gratuitous use of tear gas and rubber bullets, unprovoked beatings, unlawful arrests, and other interference with activities protected by the First Amendment. The ACLU says the plaintiffs who have suffered such abuse were clearly identified as journalists or legal observers.

The lawsuit also complains that Portland police have routinely violated Simon’s June 9 order barring them from using tear gas at the protests except when “the lives or safety of the public or the police are at risk.” Simon said tear gas should not be used simply “to disperse crowds where there is no or little risk of injury.” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also the police commissioner, got a taste of his own medicine on Wednesday night, when he was gassed by federal officers while vainly trying to show protesters that he was united with them in opposing the Trump administration’s response to the demonstrations.

The protests in Portland have been happening every day since May 28, three days after a Minneapolis police officer suffocated George Floyd. The federal officers, who according to an internal memo have not been trained in controlling riots or mass demonstrations, were deployed by the Trump administration this month, ostensibly to protect the courthouse and other federal property. But as Nancy Rommelman notes, the federal presence seems to have inflamed the situation, provoking the vandalism and assaults on the courthouse that the administration now cites to justify its involvement.”

National Guardsman Contradicts Trump Administration’s Account of Use of Force Against Protesters

“A National Guard officer will testify Tuesday at a congressional hearing that the June 1 clearing of protesters outside the White House was “an unnecessary escalation of the use of force” and “deeply disturbing to me, and to fellow National Guardsmen.”

“From my observation, those demonstrators—our fellow American citizens—were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights,” Adam DeMarco, a major in the D.C. National Guard, will tell the House Natural Resources Committee, according to his prepared remarks. “Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.”

DeMarco’s testimony directly contradicts several of the Trump administration’s shifting explanations for what happened on June 1, when law enforcement violently dispersed a crowd of protesters in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House. After police cleared the crowds, President Donald Trump conducted a photo shoot of himself holding a Bible outside St. John’s Church.”

“DeMarco testifies that around 6 p.m., Attorney General William Barr and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived.

“As the senior National Guard officer on the scene at the time, I gave General Milley a quick briefing on our mission and the current situation,” DeMarco writes. “General Milley told me to ensure that National Guard personnel remained calm, adding that we were there to respect the demonstrators’ First Amendment rights.” (Milley has since apologized for appearing in Lafayette Square. “I should not have been there,” he said. “My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created the perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”)

At around 6:20 p.m., DeMarco continues, verbal warnings were given to the crowd to leave. But from where he was standing, about 20 yards away from the line of protesters, the warnings “were barely audible and I saw no indication that the demonstrators were cognizant of the warnings to disperse.”

Law enforcement rushed the crowd at around 6:30 p.m. Videos showed law enforcement assaulting an Australian TV crew. Media and other observers also reported being tear gassed.

The Trump administration says that protesters were throwing items at law enforcement, which DeMarco testifies he did not see. Park Police also emphatically denied they fired tear gas, claiming that officers instead fired smoke canisters and pepper balls, the latter of which are also a chemical irritant. But DeMarco says that tear gas was indeed used.”

Homeland Security Acting Like ‘An Occupying Army’ Says Sen. Wyden, After Federal Agents Shoot Peaceful Portland Protester

“Twenty-six-year-old Donavan LaBella was holding a speaker above his head across from the federal courthouse in downtown Portland when one of a group of camouflage-clad federal agents threw some sort of smoking, flashing canister at him. LaBella rolled the canister away from this feet, into an empty portion of the street, then held up the speaker again. Suddenly there was a loud bang, then some sort of impact munition (a.k.a. “firearm-delivered projectiles,” such as rubber bullets or bean bags) flying through the air. Then LaBella falls to the ground. Other protesters come to his aid and drag him out of the street.

Video captured the whole horrifying incident.

“An American has been shot and sent to the hospital for apparently exercising his right of free speech,” marveled Steven Strauss, a visiting professor at Princeton.

Donavan’s mom, Desiree LaBella, told Oregon Public Broadcasting that her son had sustained skull and facial fractures and had to have facial reconstruction surgery. As of Sunday morning, he was responding to doctors and able to move his arms and legs.”

“NPR notes that “Wolf claimed there had been violence against officers in Portland. DHS later clarified Wolf was referring to fireworks shot toward officers as well as protesters pointing lasers at federal police. Several protesters in Portland were charged with assault on a federal officer because of those actions.””

Trump’s Actions in Portland Mesh With His Political Message

“Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania who was the first person to serve as secretary of Homeland Security, also condemned Trump’s actions.
”The department was established to protect America from the ever-present threat of global terrorism,” Ridge, a Republican, told the radio host Michael Smerconish. “It was not established to be the president’s personal militia.”

Ridge said it would be a “cold day in hell” before he would have consented as a governor to what is taking place. “I wish the president would take a more collaborative approach toward fighting this lawlessness than the unilateral approach he’s taken,” he said.”

“The focus of the Trump administration in recent days has been on Portland, where there have been nightly protests for weeks denouncing systemic racism in policing. In the last few days, federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshals, traveling in unmarked cars, have swooped protesters off the street without explaining why, in some cases detaining them and in other cases letting them go because they were not actually suspects. The protests have increased in size since the arrival of federal officials.

Trump’s deployment of federal law enforcement is highly unusual: He is acting in spite of local opposition — city leaders are not asking for troops — and his actions go beyond emergency steps taken by some past American leaders like President George H.W. Bush, who sent troops to quell Los Angeles in 1992 at the request of California officials.”

Footage of Partial Blindings During Anti-Police Brutality Protests Contradicts Cops’ Reports

“At least eight people across the country were hit in the face with rubber bullets and other less-lethal projectiles during the May 30 anti-police brutality protests that erupted after the death of George Floyd. Videos of these partial blindings, which challenge official statements put out by the various police departments, were released yesterday by The Washington Post.

While many of the departments involved claimed to have deployed rubber bullets, tear gas, and other less-lethal munitions to disperse protesters who were throwing objects at officers, footage from the incidents show many people who were partially blinded posed no “obvious threat” to police.”

Only 4 NYPD Cops Have Been Disciplined So Far for Violence Against Protesters

“The New York Times has looked over video footage showing the NYPD responding to protesters (some of which they gathered from Doucette’s feed) and found case after case of officers shoving, beating, and violently assaulting people who do not appear to be engaging in illegal behavior or, often, even resisting the police. They looked at 60 incidences of troubling behavior by NYPD officers in just the first 10 days of protests.

In one video, in less than a minute, the same police officer harshly shoves an unresisting protester to the pavement, pushes a cyclist, and then picks up and body slams a third protester who was standing and pointing at the gathered police officers as they were apparently breaking up a protest. In another, police beat a man on the ground after chasing him, and one even steps on the man’s neck, notable given that Floyd died from having an officer kneel on his neck for several minutes.

The Times looked over video of police just randomly lashing out and shoving people as they walked by them. They found a video of police officers slamming a man to the ground after he had been arrested and they were leading him away. They found video footage of an NYPD officer grabbing a man and hurling him into a parked car, but not arresting him, and just leaving his body on the street.

And despite the constant refrain from police that these are “isolated incidents,” the Times found behavior repeating itself and multiple examples of each questionably violent response from police.

The Times acknowledges that the videos lack full context, and we don’t see what happened before or after these violent outbursts. But they also note that the city’s policing guidelines order officers to use only the amount of reasonable force “necessary to gain control or custody of a subject.”

An NYPD spokesperson told the Times that four officers have been disciplined for their conduct during the protests in late May and early June, and the department is investigating 51 other instances of possible protest-related police misconduct. The spokesperson declined to actually watch or respond to any specific videos. The Police Benevolent Union that represents most NYPD officers also declined to respond to the Times.”

“”A lot of this was ‘street justice,'” Philip M. Stinson told the Times. Stinson is a criminologist at Bowling Green University and a former police officer who focuses on studying police use of forces. He saw many of these cases as “gratuitous acts of extrajudicial violence doled out by police officers on the street to teach somebody a lesson.” He described some of the tactics he saw as “sloppy” and “downright criminal.””