JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Ben Frazier is en route to Geneva on Saturday, where he is expected to address the United Nations with a message criticizing the DeSantis administration and the Republican-dominated Florida legislature.
Frazier plans to speak before the Committee to Eradicate Racial Discrimination (CERD) on Tuesday. The primary target of his statements will be HB-1, also known as the “anti-riot” law, which was passed in Florida following the nationwide demonstrations following the death of George Floyd.
Ben Frazier is the founder of the Jacksonville’s Northside Coalition and has been one of the most vocal activists against several recently passed laws in Florida, including one dealing with protests.
News4JAX caught up with Frazier before his flight.
“What we are saying is that this governor and his administration are in violation of international law as it pertains to the United States’ obligation to appeal and eliminate and not perpetuate racial discrimination. We say that’s exactly what he’s doing,” Frazier said.
Frazier’s profile has risen in recent months as he publicly faced Gov. Ron DeSantis. Earlier this year, he was arrested at a press event for DeSantis. The trespassing charges were dropped after Frazier threatened a federal civil rights lawsuit.
In an interview with New4JAX on Thursday, Frazier mentioned several recent laws that he called “human rights abuses.”
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is made up of professionals from eighteen different countries who represent those countries and monitor human rights violations around the world.
The Northside Coalition is suing DeSantis over the bill. The bill increases penalties for violence, burglary, looting and property damage, and also says anyone taking part in a peaceful protest who turns violent is also responsible.
Frazier said the lawsuit argues that the law restricts freedom of speech.
“What we are saying with HB-1 is ambiguous and vague and a violation of my First Amendment right to protest and rally. That’s easy,” Frazier said.
Aside from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Frazier said the law also violates an international treaty ratified by the U.S. in 1994 known as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
The sponsors argued that technically the law says nothing about peaceful protests and is intended only to punish those who act violently.
“The 2.1 thing is that this law deters the law, it deters people from going out and using their First Amendment rights.
What Frazier means by “chill” is that the law doesn’t outright ban protests, but effectively makes people think twice before engaging in a peaceful protest for fear of accidentally breaking the law .
“We let thousands of people out into the streets because we were angry. We recognize that police reform was necessary. The governor didn’t like that. good, why not? It’s American. It is democratic to use and exercise our First Amendment rights. We did. [DeSantis] has now developed legislation designed to stifle our First Amendment right,” Frazier said.
Frazier also said the same kind of chilling effect applies to the legislation passed restricting how sexual orientation, gender identity and American history are taught in schools.
In Geneva, Frazier also plans to expand his remarks beyond HB-1 to highlight other issues, such as DeSantis’ move to eliminate critical race theory teaching in the classroom and the manipulation of constituencies, which he claims are harmful to black voters.
“We want the world to take a closer look at the state of Florida and how this governor is acting against black people in so many different ways,” Frazier said.
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