People involved in protests that turn violent would face new or harsher criminal penalties under legislation easily approved by the Indiana Senate Tuesday.
Sen. Mike Young’s (R-Indianapolis) bill creates a new crime, conspiracy to commit rioting. It raises the penalty for rioting – which is when a protest becomes violent – to a felony if there’s more than $750 worth of damage caused (or if someone is seriously injured). Violating a curfew would now be a class B misdemeanor, which can be punished with up to $1,000 in fines and 180 days in jail.
Young said he’s not trying to stop people from protesting.
“We want to make sure that our citizens are safe, our businesses are safe and that the individual has the right to exercise their constitutional right to redress their grievances against their government,” Young said.
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Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said the bill is an unreasonable overreaction to last year’s Black Lives Matter protests.
“People are tired of being abused. And yes, they act out of anger. Yes, it is bad," Taylor said. "My goodness, do you want this country to be a country that says, ‘If you’re idea of freedom doesn’t fit mine, I’m gonna make you a criminal?’”
Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) worried the bill could make some people financially liable if they participate in a protest that turns violent.
"People who may have provided food or bottled water to a demonstration which then turned violent could be susceptible to this civil forfeiture statute," Tallian said. "It is way too broad."
The bill also says people whose property was damaged in a protest that turned violent could sue the city if the city didn't do enough to suppress the riot.
The measure passed 37 to 8. It now heads to the House.