A bill enhancing punishments for crimes related to rioting advanced by a Kentucky Senate committee Thursday.Senate Bill 211 was passed favorably out of committee on a 7-3 vote. That bill includes language that would make it a crime to insult or taunt a police officer in Kentucky — if that taunt provokes a violent response. Senate Bill 211 includes language that makes a person guilty of disorderly conduct if they accost, insult, taunt or challenge a law enforcement officer “with offensive or derisive words, or by gestures or other physical contact, that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response from the perspective of a reasonable and prudent person.”Its sponsor, Sen. Danny Carroll, defended the legislation saying, “This is not about lawful protests in any way, shape form or fashion. It’s to protect our first responders, it’s to protect our communities, it’s to protect property, and that’s both public and private.”The bill also defines a riot as “a public disturbance involving an assemblage of five (5) or more persons which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function,” a definition critics charge is overly broad.Police would be authorized to use “defensive force” in any situation that meets that definition. The bill also prohibits camping in an area where a riot occurs for 24 hours after the riot.”It threatens free speech, it criminalizes homelessness and it’s written specifically to intimidate protestors in response to the protests that began last year occurring around the death of Breonna Taylor,” said Kia Nishida of the ACLU of Kentucky.The bill comes months after demonstrators made daily appearances downtown and in other areas of Louisville to speak out and call for reforms after Taylor’s deadly shooting.While demonstrations aren’t as frequent as they were in the summer and spring, community activists have vowed to continue their efforts for reform.

A bill enhancing punishments for crimes related to rioting advanced by a Kentucky Senate committee Thursday.

Senate Bill 211 was passed favorably out of committee on a 7-3 vote.

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That bill includes language that would make it a crime to insult or taunt a police officer in Kentucky — if that taunt provokes a violent response.

Senate Bill 211 includes language that makes a person guilty of disorderly conduct if they accost, insult, taunt or challenge a law enforcement officer “with offensive or derisive words, or by gestures or other physical contact, that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response from the perspective of a reasonable and prudent person.”

Its sponsor, Sen. Danny Carroll, defended the legislation saying, “This is not about lawful protests in any way, shape form or fashion. It’s to protect our first responders, it’s to protect our communities, it’s to protect property, and that’s both public and private.”

The bill also defines a riot as “a public disturbance involving an assemblage of five (5) or more persons which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function,” a definition critics charge is overly broad.

Police would be authorized to use “defensive force” in any situation that meets that definition. The bill also prohibits camping in an area where a riot occurs for 24 hours after the riot.

“It threatens free speech, it criminalizes homelessness and it’s written specifically to intimidate protestors in response to the protests that began last year occurring around the death of Breonna Taylor,” said Kia Nishida of the ACLU of Kentucky.

The bill comes months after demonstrators made daily appearances downtown and in other areas of Louisville to speak out and call for reforms after Taylor’s deadly shooting.

While demonstrations aren’t as frequent as they were in the summer and spring, community activists have vowed to continue their efforts for reform.

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