UPDATE: Groups oppose ‘anti-protest’ legislation

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.

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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