Florida county considers limits on neighborhood protests

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A Florida county is considering limits on demonstrating in neighborhoods after crowds gathered for days last year outside the vacation home of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who was later convicted of killing George Floyd.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that Orange County Sheriff John Mina brought the proposal to the county commission after being surprised to learn that he couldn’t force the protesters to move elsewhere.

“Being the former chief of police in Orlando where we had an ordinance, (I thought), ‘They can’t be there. This is surely an ordinance violation,’ ” Mina said.

With support from Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, the county’s lawyers introduced an ordinance Tuesday designed to keep protestors away from homes.

“All it takes is the next flashpoint, the next controversy here, the next police shooting or whatever,” Mina said.

But several commissioners seemed blindsided by the proposal and asked for more time to consider it. They put off any decision until June 22 to also give the public time to consider the proposed change. Some expressed concerns about violating First Amendment rights.

“It’s even more important that the people have the opportunity to comment on it. … And by rushing this, we’re taking that away from people,” said Commissioner Emily Bonilla.

Commissioner Mayra Uribe said she was troubled that Orange County’s citizens weren’t involved in the discussion.

“We know historically that different communities are treated differently,” she said.

The sheriff said the protests outside the townhouse that was owned by Chauvin and his now ex-wife were “generally peaceful,” but there was some vandalism, two people were arrested and there were threats on social media about burning the house down.

“We had probably, depending on the day and time of night, anywhere from 20 to 40 deputies out there because of the size of the crowd,” Mina said.

Mina said many of the neighbors “totally agreed” why the protestors were there, “but you can tell there was a little uneasiness in them,” and their concerns grew as the protests continued.