A new bill in Tennessee would ratchet up the penalties that protesters face while also granting immunity to drivers who accidentally injure protesters.
State representative Ron M. Gant (R) said that the legislation protects state communities and public roads during protest events and slammed violent protests as “senseless acts” that “have no place in a civil society.”
State lawmakers will discuss House Bill 513 this coming Tuesday, a bill which Gant and his co-sponsors claim is necessary to prevent violence.
The legislation makes the offense of blocking a public roadway during a protest a Class E felony, a charge which carries a maximum sentence of 6 years in prison.
Critics of the bill say that it would discourage genuine protests, preventing citizens from speaking out against unwanted legislation.
Angel Stansberry, a social justice activist, said that the bill’s language requires that protesters exercise “‘due caution'” which she says is too vague a term. She also claimed that another law passed in Tennessee which allows for permit-less weapons carry, creates a recipe for “redneck vigilantism” which endangers protesters.
The Tennessee bill comes shortly after Florida passed a law which protects law enforcement funding at the local level and establishes minimum sentencing for individuals who are convicted of assaulting police officers.
Author: Rufus Wagner