Monday, April 19, 2021

PRESS RELEASE: SIERRA CLUB RELEASES STATEMENT UPON THE GOVERNOR SIGNING HOUSE BILL 1

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (April 19, 2021) – Protecting the right to exercise free speech and peaceable assembly has always been a bi-partisan endeavor. The protection of our state’s diverse habitats and watersheds has also been embraced and championed by both sides of the aisle.

“The signing of House Bill 1 by Governor DeSantis is a rejection of the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of speech, religion, press and assembly, and a slap in the face to all who protest for change, said Deborah Foote, Acting Chapter Director, “House Bill 1 a disingenuous reaction to the movement for Black lives protests last year. Sierra Club Florida supports the right for all to assemble to demand change, to petition for the redress of grievances, and to work to secure that redress. “

Sierra Club believes the health of our communities and our local and state economies are intrinsically linked to the health of our natural resources. Conservation organizations like Sierra Club work to inform decision makers and drive policy regarding environmental issues in Florida and off our coasts. A variety of tools are used to carry out our respective missions to better Florida’s environment, including litigation, science, media, lobbying, and various forms of assembly. Floridians rally, protest, march, sign wave, and gather in vigils to better Florida’s environment. 

“There is a rich history of public protest in the interest of protecting and restoring Florida’s natural resources,” said Deborah Foote, Acting Chapter Director, “recent examples include rallies to support increased funding for conservation land acquisition -- where ranchers stood alongside environmentalists -- and rallies by Floridians for Solar Choice: an alliance of libertarians, Christian Coalition conservatives, liberal environmentalists, and Tea Party groups aimed at securing the future for solar power in the state.”

David Harbeitner, Chapter Political Chair, stated, “House Bill 1 was not needed. Violence, destruction of property, and seditious acts are already prohibited by law. Furthermore, House Bill 1 is overbroad and vague in defining an “unlawful assembly,” opening nearly endless possibilities for abuse. The provisions stand to worsen discriminatory treatment of protestors and stifle protected speech. It will chill participation in protests because potential demonstrators would have to risk arrest and prosecution for “riot” just for being in the vicinity of others who might choose to perform unlawful acts.”

A chapter of the national Sierra Club, Sierra Club Florida is made up of volunteer leaders and civic activists representing over 230,000 members and supporters from all over the state.