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Tennessee puts violent protesters on notice with new law that significantly increases criminal punishments

Violent protests in Portland, Seattle, and Chicago have made headlines for months. In those Democrat-controlled cities, far-left protesters riot, loot, and cause widespread destruction that costs the city and businesses millions of dollars.

Last week, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) quietly took action to prevent similar chaos from happening in The Volunteer State.

What are the details?

During a special session convened by the governor, the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed HB8005, a bill that significantly increases the criminal punishment for violent and disruptive protests.

From the Associated Press:

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Most notably, the new law now states that those who illegally camp on state property would now face a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison, rather than a misdemeanor. Felony convictions in Tennessee result in the revocation of an individual’s right to vote.

The bill also imposes a mandatory minimum 45-day hold if convicted of aggravated rioting; enhances the fine for obstructing emergency vehicles from accessing highways; requires a court to order restitution for damaging state property; and creates a Class C felony offense for aggravated assault against a first responder — which carries a $15,000 fine and mandatory minimum 90-day prison sentence.

Lee signed the bill into law on Thursday without a press conference, the AP noted.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. William Lamberth (R), became necessary after months of protests at the state capitol, which the bill said “have resulted in vandalism and defacement of property, overnight camping on public property in violation of state law, and other risks to public safety,” WZTV-TV reported.

Indeed, after signing the bill, Lee confirmed the bill was a response to violent protests earlier in the summer.

“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. And that was done so,” he said, the AP reported.

What was the response?

Because the bill increases the criminal punishment of some crimes to felony status, the ACLU denounced the bill, suggesting that it could infringe on voting rights.

“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 of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said.

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