A Florida sheriff on Monday advised new residents of the state who moved south from liberal states against "voting the stupid way you did up north."
The remarks were made by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd during a news conference held by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) at the signing ceremony of a new anti-rioting bill passed by the legislature. Judd, who last September grabbed headlines for giving members of the media a visual aid to help them tell the difference between a peaceful protest and a riot, praised the governor and Senate President Wilton Simpson, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, and other lawmakers for prioritizing the safety of Floridians.
"Florida is a unique place and a special place. It's where we work, where we live, but it's also where the world comes to play, to bring their children — and their children have a right to be safe," the sheriff said.
He contrasted DeSantis' leadership in Florida with the governments of Seattle, Portland, and Minneapolis, where Black Lives Matter protests have devolved into violent riots that have set those communities aflame.
"That's no way to treat the community. That's no way to treat those that put their entire life into building their business," Judd said.
"We saw folks' businesses around this nation who literally worked their entire life and had every penny in their life savings involved. We're going to proactive and we're going to make sure people are safe," he continued, holding up a picture of a peaceful protest next to a picture of a riot, as seen in video reported by WTVT-TV.
"Pay attention, we got a new law and we're going to use it if you make us. We're going to protect the people."
The new law, "Combating Public Disorder," would criminalize "mob intimidation" — such as the practices of protesters accosting people at restaurants — and would increase penalties for rioting, looting, and related violence. The bill would also create legal protections for fleeing motorists who cause injury or death to rioters while attempting to drive away to safety.
"We saw unprecedented rioting throughout 2020," DeSantis said during the news conference. "We wanted to make sure we protect the people of our great state, businesses and property against any type of mob activity. We're here today being prepared to sign that bill into law."
Rioting erupted in cities across the nation last year when 46-year-old George Floyd died in police custody. The officer, Derek Chauvin, had knelt on Floyd's neck for at least eight minutes and is now on trial for Floyd's murder.
DeSantis proposed the anti-rioting law in response to the nationwide wave of violence last year, warning would-be rioters that there will be consequences for violence in Florida.
"If you are involved in a violent or disorderly assembly and you harm somebody, if you throw a brick and hit a police officer, you're going to jail, and there's going to be a mandatory minimum jail sentence of at least six months for anyone who strikes a police officer, either with a weapon or projectile. And we're also not going to simply let people back out on the street," DeSantis previously said. "So if you are in custody for one of these offenses relating to a violent or disorderly assembly, you're not getting bail before your first appearance.
"If you are from another state and you come to participate in one of these violent or disorderly assemblies, you're going to have extra penalties imposed on you as well," he added.
The new law also penalizes the destruction of "memorials" by creating a felony crime for defacing, damaging, destroying, or pulling down memorials or historic property if the damage is more than $200. Persons convicted of crimes under this law would be responsible for restoration or replacement of the property.
Judd, speaking after DeSantis Monday, used another visual aid to show the media why people come to Florida, holding up a picture of families vacationing at the beach and at Disney World.
"This is what we enjoy in Florida. This is the Florida we know and love. This is what our governor, our speaker, our president — this what all these law enforcement officers, and administrators, and sheriffs and police chiefs and their officers do every day — they guarantee an environment where you can come here and have fun," Judd said.
This is the Florida we know and love. We're a special place. And there are millions and millions of people who like to come here. And quite frankly, we like to have them here. So, we only want to share one thing as you move in hundreds a day:
Welcome to Florida! But don't register to vote and vote the stupid way you did up north, you'll get what they got!
There's a reason that this place is fun. There's a reason why we have a 49-year-low crime rate. And the same people that don't think we should have an anti-rioting bill, or a rioting bill, are the same ones that think we ought to let more people out of prison. And where they're doing that ... crime goes up. But it's not just crime that goes up, victimization goes up. The people of those states are hurt and killed and their livelihoods change and their children are changed.