Protests targeted by new legislation | Arkansas Blog

Friday, February 17, 2017

Protests targeted by new legislation

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge IS THAT A FINGER? OR "THE" FINGER? The difference could be a crime under a legislative proposal filed Friday.
  • IS THAT A FINGER? OR "THE" FINGER? The difference could be a crime under a legislative proposal filed Friday.
Republican Rep. Kim Hammer of Benton filed legislation today to increase penalties for those who block roadways in the course of protests.

The bill sets out a range of penalties for such things as obstructing emergency workers or being armed in the course of a protest. The bill includes this change in current law:

The definition of a "riot" would now be:

"Riot" means violent conduct by three (3) or more persons  acting in concert that creates a substantial risk of:

(A) Causing public alarm;
(B) Disrupting the performance of a governmental function;
(C) Damaging or injuring property or a person; or
(D) Impeding travel or public right-of-access to a road, highway, or thoroughfare designed for transit.
Committing a riot is a Class A misdemeanor. If a weapon is carried, it can be considered  aggravated riot and a felony. Inciting a riot means encouraging others to riot (i.e., block traffic.)

The bill includes this definition of disorderly conduct, another misdemeanor:

Disorderly conduct.

A person commits the offense of disorderly conduct if, with the purpose to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm or recklessly creating a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, he or she:

(1) Engages in fighting or in violent, threatening, or  tumultuous behavior;

(2) Makes unreasonable or excessive noise;

(3) In a public place, uses abusive or obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture, in a manner likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response;

(4) Disrupts or disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of  persons;

(5) Obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic;

(6) Congregates with two (2) or more other persons in a public place and refuses to comply with a lawful order to disperse of a law enforcement officer or other person engaged in enforcing or executing the law;

(7) Creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition;

(8) In a public place, mars, defiles, desecrates, or otherwise damages a patriotic or religious symbol that is an object of respect by the public or a substantial segment of the public; or

(9) In a public place, exposes his or her private parts.
The Supreme Court has ruled it is not constitutional to criminalize burning of the U.S. flags so Hammer's bill seems to stray a little far in limiting free expression. I'd hope the NRA would have something to say, too, about presuming a higher level of criminal guilt on account of simple gun possession.

The bill allows for civil lawsuits, punitive damages and recovery of attorney fees for any of the offenses enumerated, including disorderly conduct. Curse Kim and he can sue you, I guess, if he's sufficiently offended.

This session needs to be shorter, not longer.

Block traffic or burn a logo of a lawmaker's church and shoot him the bird and you can be jailed and sued.

Other legislation winning legislative approval so far would let a nursing home patient get infected bed sores and die with a penalty of no more than $250,000 — and then only if the dead person's family could get a lawyer willing to take the case for puny fees against a deep-pocketed nursing home owner with lawyers to litigate a plaintiff for years.


Anti-protest laws have become popular around the country. Some states have considered bills to release from liability motorists who run down protesters. It's enough to inspire an obscene gesture.

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