Florida bill to criminalize filming police actions is yet another anti-Black move | Opinion

Miami Herald – Francesca Menes 

April 10, 2023

State lawmakers are pushing witness intimidation legislation (Senate Bill 1126 and House Bill 1539) that purports to protect police officers. But these bills really are a not-so-veiled attack on communities of color that will make law enforcement less accountable. They build on the harmful legacy of the 2021 anti-protest bill, HB 1, which was a direct attack on the free-speech rights of those seeking racial justice.

If passed, this legislation would allow police officers greater authority to harass and criminalize people for documenting their use of excessive force.

There is no more compelling example for why this misguided bill should be rejected out of hand than Darnella Frazier. Frazier filmed the final moments of George Floyd’s life as he was being murdered by a Minneapolis police officer.

These bills are unnecessary. It already is illegal to obstruct police officers carrying out their duty.

According to MappingPoliceViolence.org, police already have killed 113 people in the United States this year, including eight in Florida, with Black people twice as likely to be killed by police than white people — “even when there are no other obvious circumstances during the encounter that would make the use of deadly force reasonable.” Passing this legislation will do nothing to enhance public safety, but it will reduce police accountability at a time when more is clearly needed.

The Senate’s version of the bill includes broader language that shields not only police officers, but also emergency medical personnel from accountability.

Like the anti-protest law that preceded it, this proposal was born out of an insidious, racially driven reaction to Black Lives protests.

Florida’s Republican leaders would be wise to focus on the underlying issues that have compelled Black Floridians to call for justice, rather than using fear and intimidation to prevent communities from documenting police violence. Urge state legislators to oppose SB 1126/HB 1539, the unjust witness intimidation bill.



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