State Republicans Target Protesters With Dangerous Bill

Senate Bill 211 is an astonishing new level of police-boot licking by Republicans.

It includes several provisions that Republicans will claim are police-protection measures. But, as you will see, not one reform fixes a problem. What’s more telling, each provision can be tied back to the racial justice movement and protests of last summer. 

GOP lawmakers’ support of police isn’t just about helping law enforcement. It’s also about their animosity toward Black people and other minorities, the LGBTQ community, Democrats and all the politically-correct, godless city people. That’s where the “woke” folks are. 

And no piece of legislation demonstrates this more than SB 211, which was advanced by a Senate committee last Thursday. 

SB 211, which now goes to the full Senate, would criminalize anyone who: “Accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges 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.”

First of all, the “reasonable and prudent person” is not a sufficient standard coming from the Kentucky Legislature, where there is a dearth of reason and prudence. And, of course, it’s clearly unconstitutional to prohibit insulting a police officer — whether it’s a word or a finger. While it’s not a perfect analogy, this would be similar to banning insults against elected officials. 

Second, while there’s been a surge in police insults over the last 12 months, is it a problem that requires new, special protections? Have police suddenly become more sensitive to insults?

One of the penalties for insulting a police officer could be losing “cash assistance benefits under Title IV of the federal Social Security Act…” Title IV provides “Grants to states for aid and services to needy families with children and for child-welfare services.” Does a child deserve to go hungry because their parent insulted a police officer? 

Republican state senators must also be offended that protesters have been allowed to setup protest camps in Downtown Louisville and other cities around the country. SB 211 solves that imaginary crisis by outlawing camping on state grounds (state property being the only jurisdiction state lawmakers have authority to regulate).

I might have missed this in the news, but I’m confident there hasn’t been a large-scale protest camp in the hometowns of SB 211-sponsors Sen. Danny Carroll (Paducah) or Sen. Mike Nemes (Shepherdsville). 

SB 211 also criminalizes assisting in a riot, if “He or she knowingly provides supplies to a riot that can be used as weapons or dangerous instruments.” So, if you offer protesters bottles of water, and one of those bottles ends up hitting a police officer, you could be a criminal. 

You might not even be aware you’re around a “riot” the way this bill defines it: “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.” Basically every college or high school party — even childhood slumber parties — could be considered a riot.

All added up, it makes it easier for the police to arrest peaceful protesters. 

While it’s clear who’s being targeted, there’s one provision in the bill that appears to defend armed counter-protesters. Turns out, it’s just a new stand-your-ground protection for a person who “uses defensive force” during “the course of a riot,” “in an attempt to escape the immediate vicinity” and “the person against whom the defensive force was used was intentionally blocking or preventing the person from escape.”

I’m not saying this provision is specifically designed to protect Kyle Rittenhouse — the 17-year-old, white gunman who was charged with first-degree intentional homicide for killing two people and wounding a third during a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin following the police killing of Jacob Blake. But, this bill could potentially protect Rittenhouse, the killer.

This week, Democrats in the U.S. House passed the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.” It would ban police chokeholds, ban some no-knock warrants and curb qualified immunity and bring other significant reforms to law enforcement nationwide. Republican lawmakers said it would prevent law enforcement from doing their job. 

In the most generous interpretation, Republicans could be correct about one thing: Police officers are put in stressful, often unfair, situations daily. They risk their lives every time they put on their uniform. And, insults surely don’t mitigate the mental and emotional toll of the job.

But, instead of criminalizing insults, Republicans should try to help solve the problems that led to protesting and insulting the police, instead of just licking their boots.