Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd took the podium at a press conference on Monday and made clear that peaceful protests would be tolerated, but riots would not be.
In the video, the sheriff puts two pictures in front of him, one of a truly peaceful protest with people marching, and another one of someone striking a pose in front of a fire, ostensibly set by that same person.
"Peaceful protest, we encourage, and more riot. We can tell this difference. And I'll guarantee you that you'll be able to tell the difference if you come here and riot. If you come here and protest peacefully, we encourage that," says Judd.
The press conference had mainly to do with FL Gov. Ron DeSantis's signing new state legislation into law. The bill has been dubbed an "anti-mob" law, because of its provisions.
Under this new bill, penalties for crimes committed during riots (not peaceful protests, as defined above) will be increased. Also, local governments can now be held legally liable for all property damage. Finally, many crimes associated with violent riots have been redefined as felonies.
"We wanted to make sure that we were able to protect the people of our great state, people’s businesses and property against any type of mob activity or violent assemblies," said Gov. DeSantis, according to the Miami Herald.
Sheriff Judd, it is thought, is partly responding to Democrat lawmakers within the state who have criticized the new bill, saying that it disenfranchises people and denies them their right to protest.
State Sen. Shev Jones, (D-West Park) had previously said: "You don’t want us on the streets. You don’t want us to kneel at games. You don’t want us to shut down the streets. Our response to injustice is to protest, but your response is to criminalize it when the recourse for us is to turn to the streets to make our voices heard in this unjust system."