Proposed increased penalties for convicted rioters in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS — Some Indiana Republicans are trying to put more penalties on people who choose to riot instead of protesting peacefully.

The bill is called Unlawful Assembly and would take away certain jobs, benefits and bail from Hoosiers convicted of rioting.

We talked to people for and against this legislation.

Greg Bires never wants to board up his business again.

“There has to be something to deter people from doing these things.”

Greg Bires

His store, Windsor Jewelry— was destroyed during the riots last spring.

“After they did all that and realized that there was no consequences, they then felt that they could just use that same tactic again to put fear into us,” said Bires. “And they did during the election.”

Though no riots happened during that time, Bires said he doesn’t want to live in fear of another one. That’s why he supports increased penalties for those convicted of rioting.

“We have a lot of concerns,” said Katie Blair, the Director of Advocacy and Public Policy with the ACLU of Indiana.

The ACLU strongly opposes the legislation calling it an anti-protesting bill and so much more.

“It certainly chills free speech,” said Blair.

The bill would make Hoosiers convicted of rioting ineligible for state or local government jobs and certain state and local benefits, it would also require cash bail and other increased penalties for crimes during unlawful protests.

“A law like this one puts a stigma on protests,” said Blair.

The author— State Sen. Jim Tomes sent a statement saying:

“To air a grievance through a protest, demonstration or permitted march is a legitimate approach and a sacred right given in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that can bring positive change. For generations in America, we’ve seen protests and demonstrations that have sparked change, but the message can be lost as soon as violence begins to occur, and citizens’ property is destroyed. Looting, firebombing, and throwing objects at citizens are violent and destructive activities that will not lead to a solution. Hoosiers are entitled to go about their lives without being victims of the violence that goes along with riots. I believe this legislation will protect innocent Hoosier bystanders from dangerous activities while still allowing groups to lawfully protest.”

Blair disagreed saying, “There are already laws on the books that protect for destruction of property and the things that the bill author is concerned about, so this law is completely unnecessary.”

Bires said while that may be true, he didn’t see those laws enforced in the spring.

“To me, that’s what’s important, that we’re prepared to stop anything like this from ever happening again,” said Bires.

The bill has been referred to the Corrections and Criminal Law committee.

We will continue following it as it moves through the process.

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