UN Issues Report on Florida’s Anti-Protest Law

UN Issues Report on Florida’s Anti-Protest Law

PUNTA GORDA, Fla.—The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued a report on Aug. 30 examining global discrimination and specifically mentioning Florida House Bill 1—a bill backed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis—putting Florida on a global stage.

The 18-member committee, including one member from the United States, said in the report that it is “concerned about reports of increasing legislative measures and initiatives at the state level that unduly restrict the right to peaceful assembly following antifascism protests in recent years, such as the HB 1 Combating Public Disorder law in Florida.”

However, the governor’s office said that the U.N. does not have any “bearing” on how the state of Florida is governed.

“The people of Florida are the ultimate authority,” DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “The U.N. does not have any bearing on the governance of the State of Florida.”

HB 1 was passed last year in response to protests against police brutality in 2020. The governor signed the bill, but a lawsuit was filed last year by several civil rights organizations, including Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter, The Black Collective, and Florida’s NAACP branches. The organizations argued that HB 1 would have a “chilling effect” on people exercising their First Amendment free speech rights. They also said the law used “overly broad” and “vague” language that could allow it to be selectively applied to racial justice advocates or political rivals.

A federal judge blocked major parts of the bill, including its description of what constitutes a “riot.”

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote in his ruling, “If this Court does not enjoin the statute’s enforcement, the lawless actions of a few rogue individuals could effectively criminalize the protected speech of hundreds, if not thousands, of law-abiding Floridians.”

An appeal was filed, but federal judge Edward Carnes, a George H.W. Bush appointee, asked Florida Deputy Solicitor General Jason Hilborn to “give a real-world example” of how HB 1’s new definition of a riot changes the Supreme Court of Florida’s “common law definition.”

“Doesn’t the fact that you’re having a problem telling me what the statute does, that the common law it amends didn’t do, indicate to you that there’s a problem with your theory?” U.S. Circuit Judge Carnes asked during a court hearing in March.

The judges have not indicated what their ruling would be or when it would be issued. However, James Tysse, an attorney for the civil rights groups contesting the law, said he is “pushing for the injunction to be affirmed by the appeals court.” All parties said they would be open to certifying the question to the Florida Supreme Court, which would have the final say on what the law says, based on its language and intent, not its constitutionality.

Ben Frazier, founder of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, was among a delegation from Florida who spoke with U.N. committee members. Frazier called the U.N. report a “victory for democracy and commonsense.”

“The United Nations just told Governor DeSantis that he’s moving in the wrong direction,” Frazier said in a released written statement. “The legislature and the governor need to U-Turn and stop violating our first amendment rights to protest and to peaceably assemble.”

Frazier went on to say that the governor should make a “mid-course correction,” but he doubted DeSantis would do so.

He will keep the conversation going and “look[s] forward to meeting with the governor to discuss issues concerning poor people and black Floridians.”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio criticized the United Nations committee report and issued a statement.

“The United Nations knowingly provides a global platform to dictators that intimidate, detain, and murder dissidents,” Rubio said in his written statement. “This committee is a joke and no one in Florida takes it seriously. The only question is why we keep sending taxpayer dollars to the U.N. in the first place.”

Griffin told The Epoch Times that the people of Florida are the “ultimate authority” on the laws that have been passed this year.

“They [Floridians], through their elected representatives and the passage of legislation this previous session, have decided that employees in a work setting and children in the school setting should not be subjected to racially discriminatory concepts; that it should be easy to vote and hard to cheat in Florida’s elections; and that law and order must be maintained. The governor supports these efforts and the will of the people of Florida,” he said in his written statement.

UN Issues Report on Florida’s Anti-Protest Law


Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.