(New York, NY) — The governor of Florida has proposed new legislation designed to crack down on protestors and those exercising their First Amendment rights. PEN America today said such laws would be unconstitutional and clearly motivated to punish those who in recent months have taken to the streets.

“Florida Governor DeSantis’ anti-protest bill politicizes the right to protest and flagrantly disregards the protections provided by the First Amendment,” said Nora Benavidez, PEN America’s director of U.S. free expression programs. “Governor DeSantis’ proposal would establish outrageous penalties for such a broad range of protest actions that it is quite obviously intended not to address public safety concerns, but rather to disincentivize and punish participation in protests altogether.”

PEN America has documented a trend in recent years of state-level legislation designed to restrict freedom of assembly, often in response to protest movements led by Black or indigenous communities. PEN America’s report, Arresting Dissent, documented over a hundred proposals since 2017 in which states have attempted to redraw the boundaries of what ‘acceptable’ protest looks like.

“As part of a documented pattern of restrictive protest laws across the country, it is hard to read this proposal as anything other than a direct response to the anti-racism protests that have found new momentum in the wake of George Floyd’s murder,” said PEN America’s Benavidez. “And like so many other bills introduced around the country, this bill would impede Floridians’ First Amendment right to assemble and express their views through peaceful protest. We call on Governor DeSantis to withdraw his unconstitutional proposal.”