LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Louisville protesters are condemning a state Senate bill that would make it illegal to taunt a police officer to the point where it could provoke a violent response.
The Senate passed SB 211 Thursday; bill sponsor Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, claims the bill is in response to riots in Louisville last summer and on Capitol Hill earlier this year.
“This (bill) is not about lawful protest in any way, shape, form, or fashion,” Carroll said. “This country was built on lawful protest and it’s something we must maintain our citizens’ right to do so. What this deals with are those who cross the line and commit criminal acts,” he said.
SB 211 would criminalize insulting of an officer to the point where it provokes a violent response.
The bill could make it a class B misdemeanor, punishable up to 90 in prison, if someone “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.”
The bill would also increase punishments for other riot-related crimes and prohibit early release for those crimes.
“It’s really sad that they can make laws on top of laws to stop this revolution,” protester Chris Wells said. “This doesn’t change nothing … y’all killing us.”
Wells has been on the front lines of protests in Louisville, demanding justice for Breonna Taylor since last summer. He said SB 211, if passed, would not stop him from speaking his mind directly to police officers.
“It’s way bigger than that, they think they can stop us just by saying words, it’s way bigger than that … you can not stop this revolution man,” he said.
“It is taking away our voice, we can’t speak freely anymore, if we do, we’re criminalized,” Tyra Walker of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racism and Political Oppression said.
Walker told WAVE 3 Senate Bill 211 was an attack on free speech and the right to protest. She said police should consider protest response as “part of the job.”
“They have to have thick skin, this the line of business you’re in, this is what my money pays you for,” she said.
Shameka Parrish-Wright with the Louisville Bail Project said the bill was based in fear and would unfairly target protesters.
“There are more and more layers to protect them [police], but I don’t see any that’s protecting us as protesters, as citizens,” she said. “Bills like this make my work with the Bail Project that much more important.”
The legislation is gaining traction as protesters continue to demand police accountability one year after the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor.
Parrish-Wright said the bail project stands ready to help those who may be arrested in the impending protests, as the organization has done for hundreds arrested in the past nine months.
SB 211 still requires input from the House but it must come before the end of the legislative session March 30.