Texas Gov. Greg Abbott proposed stiffer penalties for violent protesters and rioters, introducing legislation that stipulates an automatic six months in jail for causing harm to a police officer.
Causing injury, shining a laser in an officer’s eye, throwing fireworks and blocking hospitals would all be grounds for felony charges, Abbott said during a press conference Thursday.
The move comes as Democrats and Republicans remain polarized on issues of police reform even as protests decrying racial inequalities continue to rock the nation.
Last month, the Austin City Council slashed its police budget by $20 million and redirected those funds to community social reforms to prevent violence and provide housing and mental health services to those in need.
Abbott and fellow Republican lawmakers have ardently disagreed with efforts to trim police budgets and rejected notions to instead rely more on community policing to strengthen relations with Black and minority people.
The governor reiterated that all citizens have the right to protest, but the proposed legislation is aimed at keeping officers safe while they’re on the streets policing.
In Oklahoma, Republican state Sen. Rob Standridge said Thursday he is drafting a proposal for similar legislation to heighten the penalty for attacking or injuring a member of law enforcement and ensure restitution for property damage.
Democratic Rep. Jason Lowe of Oklahoma City said the new proposal is too hasty and unnecessary, and could potentially discourage protesters from peacefully marching for their cause.
“We just need to calm down, slow down and incorporate the laws that we have on the books. We don’t need new laws,” Lowe said, according to reports by News 9.
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