Kentucky state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would make it illegal to insult or taunt a police officer in a way that could “provoke a violent response,” according to Business Insider.
Under Senate Bill 211, which was advanced by a Kentucky Senate committee on Thursday, a person who "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" in a public place would be guilty of disorderly conduct in the second degree. The bill classifies the offense as a Class B misdemeanor, which can be punished with up to 3 months of jail time, and fines of up to $250.
Supporters Say It’s Not An Attempt To Silence Protesters:
The bill’s lead sponsor, Republican State Senator Danny Carroll, says that the bill is not aimed at lawful protesters, but is rather a response to the kinds of violence and vandalism seen in Louisville and on Capitol Hill at the beginning of the year.
“This 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 continued. “If you see the riots, you see people getting in these officers' faces, yelling in their ears, doing anything they can to provoke a violent response.”
Among the bill’s critics are Democratic Senator David Yates, who says the bill would send the wrong message to the public. He also said that good cops should have enough self-control to keep their composure when they’re being insulted or yelled at in public.
“I think by us having that kind of language in here, it makes my stomach turn, because I don’t believe any of my good officers are going to provoke a violent response because someone does a ‘your mama’ joke or whatnot,” Yates said.
The American Civil Liberties Union likewise advanced their concerns that the bill would infringe on free speech rights.
“It’s a cornerstone of our democracy that people should be able to verbally challenge police actions, even if it's offensive, even if it’s using words that people don’t like,” Corey Shapiro, legal director of the ALCU Kentucky said. “That’s a cornerstone of the First Amendment, and that’s why we’re here.”
The bill will now head to the Senate for a full vote, where it may be voted on as early as this week, before heading to the House.