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Ben Frazier gets his international message, goes to Switzerland to address the UN

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Ben Frazier is on his way to Geneva on Saturday, where he is expected to address the United Nations with a message critical of the DeSantis administration and the Republican-dominated Florida legislature.

Frazier plans to speak before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on Tuesday. The main target of his remarks will be HB-1, also called the anti-riot law, which was passed in Florida after nationwide demonstrations following the death of George Floyds.

Ben Frazier is the founder of Northside Coalition of Jacksonville and has been one of the most vocal campaigners against several recent laws passed 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 relates to the United States’ commitment to appeal and abolish, not perpetuate, racial discrimination. We were saying he’s doing just that, Frazier said.

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Frazier’s profile has risen in recent months after he publicly went head-to-head with 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 cited several recent laws that he described as violations of human rights.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is made up of professionals from eighteen different countries, representing those countries and monitoring human rights violations around the globe.

The Northside Coalition is suing DeSantis over the bill. The bill raises penalties for violence, theft, looting and damage to property, and also said anyone who takes part in a peaceful protest that turns violent is also liable.

Frazier said the lawsuit argues the law limits free speech.

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What I was saying with HB-1 is vague and vague and a violation of the first amendment rights to protest and assemble. That’s fundamental, Frazier said.

In addition to the First Amendment to the US Constitution, Frazier said the law also violates an international treaty ratified by the US in 1994 called International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Sponsors argued that the law technically says nothing about peaceful protests and that it only aims to punish those who act violently.

The 2.1 thing that this law does is it chills the right, it scares people from wanting to come out and exercise their First Amendment rights.

What Frazier calmly means is that the law doesn’t outright ban protests, but it effectively makes people think twice before participating in even a peaceful protest for fear of inadvertently breaking the law.

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We left thousands of people on the streets because we were angry. We understand that there was a need for police reform. The governor did not like this. Well, why not? It’s American. It is democratic to exercise and exercise our First Amendment right. This is what we did. [DeSantis] has now created a law designed to stifle our First Amendment right, Frazier said.

Frazier also said the same kind of chilling effect applies to laws passed that restrict 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 instruction in the classroom and precinct screening, which he contends hurts black voters.

We want the world to take a closer look at the state of Florida and how this governor is targeting people of color in so many different ways, Frazier said.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX – All Rights Reserved.

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