MIAMI - Governor DeSantis on Thursday warned protesters that it is illegal to block roadways in Florida and while he stands with the Cuban people in their fight against communism, this will not be tolerated.
On Thursday, Governor Ron DeSantis spoke in Miami about the ongoing unrest in Cuba and its effect on Florida. After calling for President Joe Biden to provide internet to the people of Cuba, he went on to discuss a variety of topics, including the several Florida roadways that have been shut down or blocked due to protesters.
"We can't have that. It's dangerous for you to be shutting down a thoroughfare. You're also putting other people in jeopardy. You don't know if an emergency vehicle needs to get somewhere. And also, it's just disrespectful to make people stand in traffic," Governor DeSantis said. "But understand, that's been illegal in Florida since way before HB1. It's not something we are going to tolerate."
He added, "There is nothing wrong with doing peaceful demonstrations and HB1 had nothing to do with peaceful. Cuban-Americans who are out demonstrating, they're not violent, those aren't riots. They are out there being peaceful and making their voices heard. And we support them and their ability to do that. But it can't be where you shut down commerce or you shut down the ability to use these arteries."
According to the Associated Press, some Black Lives Matters activists argued that a standard was being used as people across the state blocked busy roadways this week in support of anti-government demonstrations in Cuba, with limited action taken by law enforcement despite HB1 – a new law enhancing penalties against disruptions by protesters.
This bill was signed into law earlier this year and boosts penalties against demonstrators who turn violent and creates new criminal penalties for those who organize demonstrations that get out of hand. Provisions of the law also make it a felony to block some roadways and give immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road.
It was first introduced after last summer’s protests for racial justice during which some Black Lives Matter protesters were met by police with tear gas and arrests when they took to the streets for days at a time.
This week, demonstrators in several parts of Florida, including Tampa, Miami, and Orlando, temporarily blocked busy roads, chanting support for the Cubans who had taken to the streets in the communist nation.
"When they protest for regime change, which aligns with the governor’s political viewpoint ... you see no enforcement from law enforcement," said Michael Sampson, who co-founded the Jacksonville Community Action Committee, one of many groups that sprung up under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement. "I think it’s just downright hypocrisy we’re seeing from the Governor, and even law enforcement in how they’re applying this law. It goes to show how our fears that we had earlier … that it will be used against Black people fighting for equal rights."
However, the Associated Press later reported that two men in Tampa were arrested Tuesday as a group of protesters attempted to take over an exit ramp at Interstate 275 and Dale Mabry Highway, which is a major thoroughfare in Tampa. Both were arrested on charges that include battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting law enforcement, and taking part in an unlawful assembly that blocked streets or sidewalks, records show.
They said that a third man, 34-year-old Evelio Ramirez-Carrasco of Tampa, also was arrested on charges of unlawful assembly and resisting a law enforcement officer without violence — both misdemeanors — in connection with the protests. Ramirez-Carrasco was given a notice to appear in court, records show.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.