UPDATE: Groups oppose ‘anti-protest’ legislation

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UPDATE POSTED 3:30 P.M. MARCH 12, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Americans for Prosperity-Kentucky (AFP-KY) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky (ACLU-KY) announced Friday their joint effort to oppose Senate Bill 211, a bill that would criminalize protest and deter political participation.

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Lawmakers say this legislation, already passed by the Kentucky State Senate, aims to address violence and rioting.

However, its overly broad scope and vague language would grant law enforcement the power to undermine the First Amendment rights of all Kentuckians.

“Our activists share lawmakers’ concerns about public safety. Violence is unacceptable and rioting is not free speech,” said AFP-KY State Director Mike Conway. “That’s why attacking people and destroying property are already illegal acts. Senate Bill 211 will not change that distinction, but will risk punishing Constitutionally protected public participation. The General Assembly knows protecting public safety and upholding constitutional freedoms aren’t mutually exclusive— they should reject this flagrant violation of Kentuckians’ rights.”

“Senate Bill 211 is an extreme piece of legislation that directly targets racial justice protesters and would stifle free speech for all Kentuckians,” said ACLU-KY Legal Director Corey Shapiro.“SB 211 has multiple provisions that would chill constitutionally-protected free speech, including enhanced penalties for protest-related charges and making it illegal to say ‘offensive or insulting’ words to law enforcement. The fact that lawmakers are attempting to criminalize speech they view as ‘offensive’ is, itself, offensive. Moreover, courts have consistently stated law enforcement officers should be held to a higher standard when subjected to insults, as they are entrusted with the authority to enforce the law with lethal force.

Shapiro concluded, saying “The right to speak one’s mind is the cornerstone of our democracy. SB 211 is a massive overreach that would further divide our communities and silence Black voices. When Kentuckians are in so much pain they must take to the streets to be heard, lawmakers should open dialogue, not silence the very people they were elected to serve.”

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED 8 P.M. MARCH 11, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky (AP) – It could become a crime to taunt a police officer in Kentucky, under a bill that has passed the state Senate.

The Republican-backed bill that was passed Thursday would criminalize anyone who “accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges” a law enforcement officer. It would also increase penalties for demonstrators found guilty of rioting.

The measure now awaits House input.

Democratic lawmakers argued that the proposal could be used to unfairly target peaceful protesters.

Republicans hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate.

The measure was filed months after Louisville became the site of huge protests in the wake of the police killing of Breonna Taylor.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.