Abbott Proposes Legislation Giving Rioters Mandatory Jail Time
At a news conference Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott outlined legislation that would make riotous activities felonies with mandatory jail sentences.
Speaking in Dallas, Abbott said the United States Constitution guarantees citizens the right to peaceably assemble, but does not provide the right to act in any sort of destructive manner.
"Peaceably is the word that is used in the Constitution," Abbott said. "The Constitution does not provide the right to riot, to rob, to loot, to set fires, to physically harm anyone or anything. In Dallas, Texas, in the months of May and June earlier this year, there were people who did protest peacefully, but also there were rioters who ransacked property and who pummeled people."
"Texas will always defend the First Amendment right to peacefully protest," he continued, "but Texas is not going to tolerate violence, vandalism, or rioting."
Abbott listed the following legislative proposals to criminalize riotous behaviors:
- "Causing injury or destroying property in a riot will be a felony that will lead to jail time."
- "Striking a law enforcement officer during a riot will lead to a mandatory minimum jail sentence of at least six months, and this includes striking an officer with things like bricks and bottles and other projectiles."
- "Using lasers to target law enforcement will be a felony that will lead to jail time. Law enforcement officers have been injured or even blinded by lasers, and these lasers impair a law enforcement officer's ability to perform their duties, especially during the time of a riot."
- "Blocking hospital entrances and exits by protesters and rioters will be a felony that will lead to jail time. This was seen most recently in Los Angeles, and it poses a grave danger to the injured in need of urgent medical care."
- "Using fireworks at protests and riots will be a crime that will cause you to go to jail. Law enforcement officers have been injured by fireworks during riots, and fireworks can also sound like gunfire, causing law enforcement officers to react accordingly."
- “Some people participate in riots without ever being there. What they do is they aid and they abet riots with funds or organizational assistance. This will be a felony that will lead to jail time.
- "We also proposed giving the attorney general the power to pursue civil penalties against people in organizations that assist in riots."
Finally, Gov. Abbott said people charged with these offenses would remain in jail until at least their first court appearance. Abbott cited what he called "the mockery of the revolving door arrests" that occurred during riots in Dallas earlier this year.
Before outlining these proposals, Gov. Abbott said he recently announced more proposals that would:
- Defund cities that defund their police departments
- Eliminate the annexation power of cities that defund their police departments
- Urge elected officials and candidates to sign the Back the Blue Pledge
Protests were organized across the nation Wednesday, including here in Texas, after it was announced that Brett Hankison, the former Louisville police officer who fatally shot Breonna Taylor, had been indicted by a grand jury on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree. The charge would basically penalize Hankinson for endangering Taylor's neighbors.
Officers Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly, who were also involved in the March 13 incident in which Taylor was fatally shot, were not charged.
CNN reports that two Louisville police officers were shot Wednesday and sustained non-life-threatening injuries after responding to reports of shots fired near a march in protest of the grand jury's decision.
ABC News reports that a protestor in Buffalo, New York suffered non-life-threatening injuries after being hit by a pickup truck. Protestors reportedly surrounded the vehicle after it was driven directly into their group, and began pounding on it and demanding the driver stop. The driver instead continued forward, striking a woman on a bicycle before speeding away. The driver was later stopped and arrested.
In the same article, ABC News reports that a protestor was knocked to the ground by a vehicle that was driven toward a group of demonstrators in Denver, Colorado. Protestors reportedly gathered around the vehicle and banged on the hood, demanding the driver turn around. The driver accelerated, striking a woman. As with the Buffalo case, the driver was stopped and arrested a short time later.
Other protests across the nation appear to have remained peaceful.
Speaking to ABC's "The View" Thursday, the attorney representing Taylor's family, Ben Crump, called on activists to continue protesting peacefully out of respect for Taylor.
“We understand their righteous anger, because we feel it too,” Crump said. “But as Breonna’s family has asked, as her mother, Tamika, has asked, please demonstrate peaceful protests."
Crump has called the grand jury's decision outrageous and offensive. He believes the officers involved should have at least been charged with second degree manslaughter, and is demanding that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Jay Cameron release the transcript of the grand jury's proceeding. He also says Cameron was not transparent or honest with Taylor's family.
Cameron addressed the indictment at a press conference Wednesday, where he defended the actions of the officers involved and said celebrities and influencers "do not understand the facts" in the case.