It could become a crime to taunt a police officer in Kentucky, under a bill that passed the state Senate on Thursday, the AP reports. The measure was filed months after Louisville, the state's largest city, became the site of huge protests in the wake of the police killing of Breonna Taylor. The bill passed the Republican-dominated Senate 22-11 and now awaits House input. Under the legislation, anyone who “accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges a law enforcement officer with offensive or derisive words, or by gestures or other physical contact, that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response” would be guilty of a misdemeanor and face up to 90 days in jail and fines.
The proposal also increases penalties for rioting. For instance, those charged with rioting would be required to be held for a minimum of 48 hours. Another provision would criminalize aiming “a light, a laser pointer, an activated horn, or other noise-making device towards the head” of a first responder. Several Republican senators who voted against the bill shared concerns that some parts of it would violate First Amendment rights and strain the judicial system. Nevertheless, they signaled support for the bill if some parts of it were amended in the House. Democratic lawmakers warned that the proposal could be used to unfairly target peaceful protesters. State Sen. Gerald Neal, a Democrat who represents Louisville, called the legislation “unnecessary” and “unreasonable."
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