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Long Island county votes to permit first responders to sue protesters, enable civil fines as much as $50,000

After a heated, five-hour public testimony interval, the legislature on Long Island voted 12-6 to place the invoice into regulation. It goes into impact instantly.

This regulation comes as states and localities attempt to put limits on the rights of protesters after greater than a yr of protests supporting the Black Lives Matter motion.

While the Nassau County regulation doesn’t particularly title Black Lives Matter, it does cite “civil unrest since the close of May of last year,” which is when protests erupted in response to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Several attorneys attending the listening to on Monday predicted the regulation could be challenged on constitutional grounds.

In the previous yr, Oklahoma handed a regulation that grants immunity to drivers who unintentionally injure or kill protesters whereas making an attempt to flee and stiffens penalties for demonstrators who block public roadways. Florida elevated penalties for assault and different associated fees throughout a riot, and prohibited the damaging or defacing of memorials or historic property.
There are presently 53 comparable payments pending payments throughout the nation, in response to a invoice tracker analyzing US protest legal guidelines from the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law.

Fines on prime of potential damages from lawsuits

In May 2019, Nassau County handed laws to incorporate first responders below its Human Rights Law, prohibiting discrimination in opposition to them and figuring out them as a “protected class.” The new regulation places further threats of civil authorized motion and county fines on prime of the already established class.

It states that first responders will have the ability to sue people they imagine harassed, injured, menaced or assaulted them as a result of their standing as a primary responder or whereas they have been in uniform, permitting them to gather compensatory damages, punitive damages, and legal professional’s charges.

In addition, people may very well be topic to a civil penalty from the county of not more than $25,000 per violation to the “aggrieved” first responder, in response to the legislative textual content. If the violation happens throughout a “riot,” the regulation states the penalty can go as much as $50,000.

The effective quantities are based mostly on earlier human rights laws within the county, during which fines can go as much as $50,000 for some offenses and as much as $100,000 for malicious acts, in response to the workplace of Nassau County Legislator Joshua A. Lafazan, who authored the invoice.

The effective could be payable to the primary responder on prime of potential damages paid from a lawsuit.

Oklahoma passes a law that can protect drivers who run over protesters
The regulation cites federal code to outline what a riot consists of, qualifying it as a “public disturbance” involving violence with “one or more persons part of an assemblage of three or more” that’s inflicting a transparent and current hazard. The definition additionally consists of threats or the specter of violence. The regulation doesn’t go into any additional definition on what could be thought of violent in these conditions.

Many of the audio system throughout public testimony famous the obscure language of what might or might not get them in hassle, saying the invoice was meant to focus on anybody who challenges the police.

Lafazan instructed CNN on Sunday criticism that the invoice targets a selected race or political ideology is “outrageous.”

“This bill, by protecting our first responders, helps guarantee every citizen’s fundamental right to freedom of speech without violence or intimidation,” he stated.

Nassau County listening to debates whether or not regulation enforcement ought to have extra safety

Monday’s listening to in Nassau County heard arguments from a wide range of stakeholders, together with a number of presidents from completely different police unions and activists from the realm.

“While facing anti-police sentiment under intense scrutiny, our officers time and time again conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism, which has earned them the respect of every community in Nassau County,” stated Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President James McDermott.

Florida governor signs controversial 'pro-law enforcement' law cracking down on riots

“Nassau County law enforcement deserves the support of our elected officials, and every possible protection to keep them safe throughout the course of their duties. Any attempt to say otherwise disrespects all who wear the badge,” he stated.

But many countered that there was no want to provide the additional weight of economic penalties when police already maintain a lot energy.

“Police officers, if they are harassed, like one of the PBA [Police Benevolent Association] presidents said, they can arrest people,” Tracey Edwards, the NAACP Long Island director stated through the listening to. “They can use the law. That’s why we have legislation. We have wonderful police officers that can protect themselves. They do not need to have a human rights law to put them above all others. And that’s what you are doing.”

The New York Civil Liberties Union additionally argued in a press release that the regulation is probably unconstitutional in addition to an pointless safety.

“This bill would create a novel, dangerous, and unconstitutional ‘irrebuttable presumption’ that unlawful conduct directed at police and other first responders was motivated by hatred if the responder was in uniform at the time,” the group stated. “That means anyone accused under this law would face criminal sanctions, mandatory civil penalties, and civil suit damages without any opportunity to present evidence that they weren’t acting out of bias. In the criminal context, this is flatly unconstitutional.”

“These laws are misguided and counterproductive, as they undermine police-community relations, do nothing to improve first responder safety, and make a mockery of actual civil rights laws established to protect this Nation’s historically marginalized communities,” NYCLU added.

Nassau is a county of greater than 1.three million individuals situated to the east of New York City.

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