The Latest: Wisconsin Democrats rip anti-riot legislation
Sep. 21, 2017
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Latest on a hearing on a package of Wisconsin legislation that would criminalize participating in a riot (all times local):
Wisconsin Democrats are criticizing a Republican legislative package designed to curb rioting as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech and assembly.
Rep. John Spiros and Sen. Van Wanggaard are pushing three bills that would define a riot as a public disturbance involving violence or a threat during a gathering of at least three people. Participating in a riot or going armed in a riot would be a felony. Blocking a street during a riot would be a misdemeanor.
Democrats on the state Assembly's judiciary committee took the bill apart during a public hearing Thursday, arguing that the legislation would make everyone standing around one person who makes a threat or commits an act of violence guilty of a felony. They said the bill would chill free speech and is probably unconstitutional.
The bill's author, Rep. John Spiros, said he took the definition from federal code and his top priority is keeping people safe.
The committee wasn't expected to vote on the bill Thursday.
Wisconsin lawmakers are set to take public comments on three bills designed to curb rioting.
The Assembly's judiciary committee was set to hold a hearing on the proposals Thursday afternoon in the state Capitol.
The bills would require police to suppress unlawful assemblies that block private or public streets, buildings or homes. They also would define a riot as a public disturbance during a gathering of at least three people involving violence or a threat of violence that could immediately occur. Whoever participates in such a gathering would be guilty of a felony.
Anyone who blocks a thoroughfare during a riot would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to nine months in jail. Anyone who goes armed during a riot would be guilty of a felony.