Tennessee Legislators Looking to Strengthen Anti-Protest Laws

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Tennessee Legislators Looking to Strengthen Anti-Protest Laws

For two months, protesters have gathered for all-day protests at a plaza across the street from the Tennessee capitol building. Legislators are now preparing to meet in a special session aimed at, among other things, cracking down on such protests.


During this three-day session, legislators are expected to bring up bills that would criminalize some aspects of what protesters are doing and increase penalties for some current crimes. These measures include imposing mandatory minimum sentences on people convicted for illegally camping on some state property, making such camping a felony, imposing mandatory sentences on individuals who assault or spit on law enforcement officers, and stripping local district attorneys of discretion to bring charges against protesters in some instances.


Legislators contend that these laws are necessary to stop the disruptive protests that have occurred in Tennessee and around the nation. They also contend that police need more protection from protesters and rioters. Opponents of the law, however, argue that they will criminalize peaceful protests and impose harsh sentences on people advocating changes in the government.

Gov. Bill Lee agrees with his fellow Republicans who control the legislature that such laws are needed. However, there is some disagreement about how far the mandatory minimum sentences should go. 


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