TAMPA, FLORIDA - A news article published on weartv.com states that Florida men are being held on criminal charges under Florida's new anti-riot law after protesting in their support of Cuba's anti-government demonstrations. The two suspects, a 30-year-old man, and a 39-year-old man, were among a group of people last Wednesday night who tried to take over an Interstate 275 exit ramp at Dale Mabry Highway. The roadway is considered a major roadway in Tampa, Florida.
The men were arrested on criminal charges that include resisting law enforcement, taking part in an unlawful assembly that blocked streets or sidewalks, and battery on a law enforcement officer.
Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new Florida law earlier in 2021 that increased the criminal penalties against violent demonstrators created new criminal penalties for individuals caught organizing demonstrations that become violent. The law makes it a felony to block certain Florida roadways and grants immunity to drivers who drive through protesters who are blocking a road.
The two men who are being held in the Hillsborough County Jail were denied bond.
A third man, a 34-year-old Tampa man, was also was arrested on criminal charges of resisting a law enforcement officer without violence and unlawful assembly. Both criminal charges are misdemeanor charges. The criminal charges are in connection with the protests. He was issued a notice to appear in court. The 34-year-old suspect qualified for a notice to appear and was no arrest because of his misdemeanor criminal charges.
According to news outlets, protesters purportedly blocked the Palmetto Expressway by Hialeah for about half an hour last Wednesday night. On Tuesday, the protestors blocked the same highway for several hours during the rainy rush hour.
The Governor signed the "anti-riot" law to authorize law enforcement to protect and serve the citizens of Florida. The Governor's spokeswoman stated that the Governor would have a hand in choosing which protesters or causes would be subjected to the new Florida law. She stated that it is not the Governor's job to "arrest or decline to arrest any citizen for any reason." She also stated that it is the responsibility of law enforcement in their jurisdiction to make the arrests. The spokesperson also stated that blocking roadways without a permit was already illegal before the Florida law was enacted. Law enforcement agencies throughout Florida have the discretion to ensure public safety by enforcing the law.
In Tampa, police officers used their public address system to order the crowds to disperse. About 45 minutes later, the two men attempted to walk onto the interstate from the entrance ramp.
One of the suspects put a law enforcement officer into a bear hug as the officer was attempting to arrest a different protester. That individual then struck a law enforcement officer in the face breaking the officer's glasses. When the officer attempted to arrest the suspect who struck him, the man continued to resist arrest until he was placed in handcuffs.
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