Netroots Nation 2022 – A Threat to Racial Justice: Criminalizing Protest and State Interference

As part of this year’s Netroots Nation gathering, Local Progress’ Francesca Menes, Deputy Organizing Director, and Gail Johnson, Local Progress Florida organizing committee member and former Gainesville City Commissioner, participated in a panel discussion on Florida’s HB1

HB1 – now known as Florida’s Anti-Protest/Anti-Control Law – is a far-reaching law that undermines both free speech and assembly, and the ability of local governments to pass budgets responsive to their communities’ needs. It was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on April 19, 2021. 

The Netroots session – ‘A Threat to Racial Justice: Criminalizing Protest and State Interference’ – examined the troubling trend of attacks on democracy through a case study of HB1, which is currently facing a community-centered legal challenge on behalf of multiple Florida municipalities. 

The panelists examined the connection between anti-protest and anti-criminal justice reform policies and broader efforts to limit, prevent, and criminalize participatory democracy. Francesca gave an introduction of HB1, highlighting how the law is a prime example of an abuse of preemption.

“This is simple cause and effect,” Francesca explained. “When our communities started to demand more and started to demand better in the wake of a national racial reckoning, the governor of Florida took away a critical tool in our toolbox – the power to affect change through our local budget process. The tool required to make the changes we need has been stripped away and communities are paying attention.”

Gail described how community organizing played a critical role in the success of the fight against the law.

“Despite all of the undermining and interference, we prevailed,” Gail said. “And I believe it was because of the organizing and community support.”  

Gail and Francesca were also joined by Berbeth Foster, Senior Staff Attorney at the Community Justice Project, and Marissa Roy, Staff Attorney at Public Rights Project. Berbeth covered the lawsuit against HB1 and Marissa outlined why the model of community organizing that Gail described needs to be expanded. 

Session participants also had the chance to hear from one another and learn about ways they can engage their own communities in this fight. 

For more information on HB1 and how to fight back, check out the following resources: