*Tennessee Governor Bill Lee intends to take voting rights away from protesters via new legislation designed to curb demonstrations over social justice.
According to The Hill, Lee quietly signed a bill upping penalties on some forms of protest. The new law stipulates that anyone who “illegally” camps on state property could face a Class E felony and six years in prison. If found guilty of a felony, the individual loses the right to vote.
Here’s more The Hill:
The GOP-controlled state General Assembly passed the measure last week during a three-day special legislative session and was signed without an announcement earlier this week.
Among other things, the new law stipulates that people who illegally camp on state property will face a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison. People found guilty of a felony in Tennessee lose the right to vote.
The new law also slaps a mandatory 45-day sentence for aggravated rioting, boosts the fine for blocking highway access to emergency vehicles and enhances the punishment for aggravated assault against a first responder to a Class C felony.
Tennessee has now gone the furthest in repressing dissent: Gov. Lee signed the bill that increases penalties for some activities related to protests.
It makes it a felony (up to 6 years in prison, and a loss of voting rights) to camp on state property.https://t.co/D5VN7n2NKm
— Taniel (@Taniel) August 22, 2020
The ACLU state chapter responded to the new penalties, saying, “We are very disappointed in Governor Lee’s decision to sign this bill, which chills free speech, undermines criminal justice reform and fails to address the very issues of racial justice and police violence raised by the protesters who are being targeted,” ACLU Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg told the Associated Press. “While the governor often speaks about sentencing reform, this bill contradicts those words and wastes valuable taxpayer funds to severely criminalize dissent.”
Despite criticism of the bill, Lee defended it by citing the demonstration in May that saw vandalism and fires outside a local courthouse. “I think what we saw was a courthouse on fire and businesses being broken into and vehicles being damaged. We saw lawlessness that needed to be addressed immediately,” he told reporters last week.
Critics have called Lee’s new law “racist” and compared it to Jim Crow-era America. Do you agree? Sound off in the comments.