The Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law passed Senate Bill 198 out of committee today. This legislation would enhance criminal penalties for rioting, obstruction of traffic, and curfew violations, and remove power from communities on multiple fronts.
Katie Blair, public policy and advocacy director with the ACLU of Indiana issued this statement:
“Indiana legislators are launching a full-on attack on Hoosiers’ right to protest in what is clearly a backlash against the Black Lives Matter protests that occurred across the state of Indiana last summer. SB 198 is unconstitutional and would chill Hoosiers’ free speech by enhancing criminal penalties and discouraging release on bail for charges during what the law defines broadly as an ‘unlawful assembly.' SB 198 is not an ‘anti-riot’ bill; SB 198 is an anti-First Amendment bill.
“Under SB 198, any person at a mass gathering who is lawfully walking on the sidewalk, could be prosecuted if they see five people spill into the streets and fail to leave the event or report that activity. This would make people liable for the acts of others without any actual contribution, simply on the basis of them being in the same place at the same time.
“There are already laws on the books that address offenses associated with rioting in Indiana, and with these additional penalties, Indiana runs the risk of chilling First Amendment speech and criminalizing legitimate protest activity. We have seen time and time again, the more drastic response from law enforcement against protesters of color, and there is no doubt the overactions taken in SB 198 will inevitably be used against marginalized communities.”