Florida Senate - 2020 (NP) SB 8 By Senator Bracy 11-00183A-20 20208__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of the descendants of victims of 3 the 1920 Ocoee Election Day riots; requiring the 4 Department of Law Enforcement to conduct an 5 investigation regarding the 1920 Ocoee Election Day 6 riots; appropriating funds to compensate direct 7 descendants of individuals who were killed, injured, 8 or otherwise victimized by the violence at Ocoee; 9 specifying procedures, requirements, and limitations 10 regarding applications for compensation; reverting 11 unused appropriations to the General Revenue Fund; 12 providing a limitation on the payment of attorney 13 fees; providing an effective date. 14 15 WHEREAS, in the decades following the conclusion of 16 Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws were enacted throughout the 17 southern United States, including Florida, which mandated 18 segregation and imposed numerous restrictions, such as the 19 imposition of poll taxes and literacy requirements, thereby 20 suppressing the ability of African Americans to participate in 21 the democratic process, and 22 WHEREAS, throughout the country, organizations such as the 23 Ku Klux Klan staged rallies, marches, and other demonstrations 24 in an effort to intimidate African Americans and any allies from 25 organizing and attempting to exercise the right to vote, and 26 WHEREAS, as the 1920 presidential election approached, 27 efforts were undertaken in Orange County by numerous 28 organizations and individuals, including Judge John M. Cheney 29 and two prominent African-American residents of Ocoee, Julius 30 “July” Perry and Moses Norman, to register African-American 31 voters to allow for their participation in the upcoming 32 election, and 33 WHEREAS, on November 2, 1920, as several African Americans 34 in Ocoee, including Moses Norman, unsuccessfully attempted to 35 vote on Election Day, violence ensued as a mob of approximately 36 100 white men formed and marched to Julius “July” Perry’s 37 residence, and who proceeded to open gunfire as Julius “July” 38 Perry attempted to defend himself along with his property and 39 family, and 40 WHEREAS, after the Perry family eventually fled the 41 residence, Julius “July” Perry was soon arrested and 42 subsequently shot and lynched after the mob gained access to his 43 jail cell with the aid of local law enforcement, and 44 WHEREAS, the violence spread throughout the African 45 American community of Ocoee and upwards of 60 people are 46 estimated to have perished while dozens of homes, two churches, 47 and a lodge meeting hall were set ablaze and gunfire overtook 48 the community, and 49 WHEREAS, in the aftermath of the riots, nearly all African 50 American residents of the community were forced to flee, 51 abandoning their residences and property and relocating 52 elsewhere, and 53 WHEREAS, there is no record that state or local government 54 officials took any action to prevent the tragedy that occurred 55 in Ocoee, or reasonably investigated the matter in the riot’s 56 aftermath in an effort to bring the perpetrators of the incident 57 to justice or to allow the displaced African-American residents 58 to return to their homes and property, and 59 WHEREAS, in November 2018, the Ocoee City Commission 60 adopted a proclamation that acknowledged the acts of domestic 61 terror inflicted upon the African-American residents of Ocoee 62 and western Orange County on November 2, 1920, and required the 63 installation of a historical marker in a public space describing 64 the events of that day, and 65 WHEREAS, the State of Florida recognizes an equitable 66 obligation to equitably redress the injuries, damages, 67 infringement of civil rights, and the loss of life that African 68 American residents sustained as a result of the violence and 69 destruction that occurred in Ocoee in November 1920, NOW, 70 THEREFORE, 71 72 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 73 74 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 75 found and declared to be true. 76 Section 2. The Department of Law Enforcement shall 77 investigate the crimes committed in and around Ocoee in 1920 and 78 report its findings to the Legislature. 79 Section 3. The sum of $10 million is appropriated from the 80 General Revenue Fund to the Office of the Attorney General for 81 the relief of direct descendants of individuals who were killed, 82 injured, or otherwise victimized by the violence that took place 83 at Ocoee on November 2, 1920. An eligible individual must submit 84 an application for compensation to the Attorney General no later 85 than December 31, 2020. The Attorney General must provide 86 reasonable notice of the availability of compensation throughout 87 the applicable time period, including through Internet postings 88 on the office’s website. Failure to submit an application for 89 compensation by December 31, 2020, precludes an eligible 90 individual from receiving any payment under this act. An 91 individual seeking compensation must provide the Attorney 92 General with reasonable proof establishing lineage to an 93 individual who was killed, injured, or otherwise victimized by 94 the violence at Ocoee. Upon receipt of reasonable proof of 95 eligibility, the Attorney General must notify the Chief 96 Financial Officer of the individual’s name, eligibility, and the 97 amount of compensation to be awarded. The amount of compensation 98 awarded may not exceed $150,000 per individual who was killed, 99 injured, or otherwise victimized by the violence that took place 100 at Ocoee. If multiple descendants of a single individual apply 101 for compensation on behalf of that individual, the amount of 102 compensation awarded shall be prorated among any eligible 103 claimants. A descendant may not apply for compensation for more 104 than one individual. Any funds that are appropriated pursuant to 105 this section which are unused shall revert to the General 106 Revenue Fund. 107 Section 4. Any amount awarded under this act is intended to 108 provide the sole compensation for all present and future claims 109 arising out of the factual situation described in this act which 110 resulted in injuries and damages to victims of the 1920 Election 111 Day riots in and around Ocoee. The total amount paid for 112 attorney fees relating to this claim may not exceed 25 percent 113 of the amount awarded under this act. 114 Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.