- Punish protesters: Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas wants to create six new laws that punish people who take part in protests and attack police, block hospitals or cause destruction with jail time.
- “The Constitution protects peaceful protests, but it does not allow the right to loot, steal, rob, break, burn and damage the property of others or other people,” said Abbott.
- However, civil rights groups in Texas criticized the governor, saying his measure seeks to punish the right to free assembly in the face of protests over police abuses in the United States.
Greg abbott, Governor of Texas, wants to propose a reform to the state law so that violent social protests are punished.
Abbott voiced his views at a Republican Party campaign rally in Dallas, Texas, on the afternoon of Thursday, September 24, 2020, before an angry crowd that celebrated his proposals.
“Today we announced legislative proposals to do even more to protect our law enforcement officers and keep our community safe,” Abbott said flanked by police officers from various corporations.
The governor of Texas made his announcement in the context of the protests at the national level in the United States for civil rights led, among others, by the movements of Black Lives Matter in the face of the wave of police abuses.
Abbot’s proposals still need to be approved by the Texas Congress in 2021 and will then officially become law within the State Penal Code from Texas.
For example, Abbott spoke that destroying private or public property during a protest would be considered riot and carry serious penalties.
Additionally, protesters who block hospital entrances, point laser beams at a police officer, and even those who throw bottles of water at officers could face up to six months in jail.
Gregg Abbott’s position is not on the ballot for November 3, 2020. However, his proposal is a way to reinforce his party’s candidates who do compete for an election seat that day.
Currently in Texas there is already the crime of riot, however, the law provides that it is a minor offense that is rarely punishable by jail time. Gregg Abbott wants that from next year to change and be a felony.
Governor Abbott’s proposal would create serious crimes for protesters and sanctions for those organizing protests in what has been one of the most turbulent years in the history of the United States in terms of social protest movements and that has polarized the country .
Yet there are people in Texas who view Governor Abbott’s proposals with suspicion.
Andre Segura, Legal Director of the Civil Liberties Union of America (ACLU, for its acronym in English), believes that Governor Abbott’s proposal is aimed at stifling demands for social justice.
“Instead of heeding calls for reform (due to the lack of justice and abuses of the African American community), Governor Abbott has decided instead to curse and dissuade those who wish to assert their constitutional right to make their voices heard. Segura said in a statement.
Segura, an Austin-based Hispanic civil rights attorney, explained that communities throughout Texas continue to express outrage at the lack of justice and accountability for the unlawful use of deadly force by law enforcement and the tragic loss of lives of African Americans.
“After the decision not to criminally charge any of the agents for the death of Breonna Taylor, Texans took to the streets to demand immediate police reforms,” said Segura and just then, a day later, is when Governor Abbott makes his announcement. .
According to Segura the governor of Texas is only “feeding what are simply conspiracy theories concocted about outside agitators, it now appears that Abbott seeks to trample the Constitution by threatening to criminalize organizations that help and mobilize people to exercise these rights. ”.
Governor Abbott’s proposal, according to Segura, should sound the alarm bells of all Americans. because “the ability to express disagreement and demand justice is, for many, the only way to generate change, and we will not allow our government to silence us.”
For her part, the lawyer Mimi Marziani, president of the organization Civil Rights Project in Texas dedicated to the defense of citizens, also expressed concern about the proposal of Governor Greg Abbott.
“Abbott is on the wrong side of history,” Marziani said in a statement sent to MundoHispánico, and detailed that the protest movements in the United States are “manifestations of pain of our compatriots and the First Amendment is supposed to protect them.”
The attorney said that if the governor wants to “attack the Bill of Rights and organizations like ours that exist to defend those rights, I suppose I want to know what Abbott thinks he is protecting.”
Marziani invokes the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, written in 1789, which establishes the right of free expression of any political, religious idea and the possibility for people to come together to express it. The amendment was reviewed and ratified in 1992 by the United States Congress.
Governor Gregg Abbott responded to the criticism by saying that the US Constitution effectively allows the right “peaceful assembly and expression of political ideas.”
“Texas is breaking down with these riots… the Constitution protects peaceful protests, but it does not allow the right to loot, rob, rob, break, burn and damage the property of others or other people. My proposed six new laws will punish those who protest and serve to protect our communities, ”Abbott said in a statement.
Abbott was emphatic in saying that if someone during those protests assaults a police officer in Texas, even by throwing a plastic bottle at him, he will make sure that person must spend at least six months in jail.
So far no Texas police department has reacted, publicly, with any comment supporting or not supporting Governor Gregg Abbott’s proposal.
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