Proposed House bill would create stiff penalties toward protesters

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On Tuesday, Tennessee legislators will return to the statehouse to discuss new laws and possible amendments. Among those will be House Bill 513.

If passed, the proposed legislation would create stiffer penalties against protestors and offer immunity to certain drivers if they injure those participating in a protest.

“It’s designed to discourage us from protesting and raising our voices against whatever they want to pass,” said Angel Stansberry, a social justice advocate and member of The People’s Plaza, the group that led massive demonstrations at the Tennessee Statehouse after the murder of George Floyd.

House Bill 513 would create new riot-related offenses. It would make it illegal for protestors to throw objects or “intimidate or harass” people who are not participating in the demonstration. The penalties range from misdemeanor to a class E felony.

The proposed bill would also increase the penalty for blocking a roadway while protesting and would provide immunity to drivers who “unintentionally cause harm” to a protestor.

“They have to practice ‘due caution’ which is as vague a term as I have ever seen,” Stansberry said. “This combined with the permitless carry is a way for them to encourage redneck vigilantism, and it puts our lives in danger. It’s already put people’s lives in danger, even without granting immunity to a driver. People have already been run over while protesting.”

The bill is sponsored by Representative Ron Gant and a host of other legislators. They say the legislation is needed to prevent violence.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of community unrest across Middle Tennessee.

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