On Thursday, the Republican-controlled state senate in Kentucky passed a bill criminalizing free speech and peaceful protest. Under Kentucky Senate Bill 211, anyone who “accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges a law enforcement officer with offensive or derisive words” will face up to three months in jail and a $250 fine.
The bill also defines a “riot” as a “public disturbance” of five or more people whose “tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function” — another outrageously broad definition. Then it jails anyone arrested at a “riot” for a mandatory 48-hours with no bail and increases penalties for demonstrators found guilty of rioting. Meanwhile, even people accused of murder and arson can post bail in under 48 hours in Kentucky.
The People’s Party condemns this attack on our First Amendment and its intent to silence dissent, criminalize protest, and deter peaceful political assembly. The measure’s overly broad scope and vague language would give law enforcement officials wide latitude to target, arrest, and hold peaceful protestors, further putting at risk people of color while stifling and undermining the constitutional rights of all Kentuckians.
Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers. The Kentucky House is voting on the bill this week where it’s expected to pass. The measure was introduced in response to protests and looting in Louisville in the wake of the police killing of Breonna Taylor one year ago. If passed, the People’s Party will mobilize to challenge and overturn this fascist trial balloon and prevent potential copycat legislation in additional states.