A federal judge on Thursday ruled that Florida’s new “anti-riot” law is vague “to the point of unconstitutionality,” and must be temporarily blocked from being enforced. U.S. District Judge Mark Waller found that the legislation, which was backed and signed into law in April by the Gov. Ron DeSantis, violated First Amendment rights on freedom of speech and assembly. The statute would criminalize protests that turn violent, using the terms “mob intimidation” and “riot”; the NAACP and other racial justice groups have sued on the grounds that its mandate unfairly targets people of color.
In a 90-page decision, the judge reasoned that the law’s definition of what constitutes a riot is “overbroad,” and the new provision could result in the arrest or prosecution of innocent people. Walker found that DeSantis failed to “credibly” rebuff the accusation that the definition of a riot might be used by law enforcement against anyone who criticizes their authority. On Wednesday, a judge shut down DeSantis’ effort to ban schools from implementing face mask mandates.