Protestors who block streets would be penalized under legislation initially approved by the Missouri Senate this week. The bill also aims to prevent municipalities from decreasing budgets for law enforcement agencies in Missouri by more than 12 percent over five years.
“Freedom of speech cannot be done at the personal safety and expense of another,” said Sen. Bill Eigel, a Republican from St. Charles County. “And I think that’s what’s happening.”
After many hours of debate, the bill received initial approval. The Senate must pass the legislation once more before it goes to the House. That vote is expected to take place this week.
Democratic senators were able to slightly scale back the charges for individuals who block a street or highway. An amendment proposed by Sen. Barbara Washington, D-Kansas City, changed a person’s first offense to an infraction instead of a misdemeanor. The second offense would be a misdemeanor and the third offense would be a felony. Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, said she has led protests that block the street to decry injustice in her community.
“You can’t silence the people’s voices,” May said. “You have to look at the civil rights movement. If it wasn’t a cry out by the peaceful protests, there was no justice.”
Eigel’s legislation combined three measures from another bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Rick Brattin, including the cap on public-safety budget reductions.
“What this addresses is the movement to, in effect, go after our law enforcement who are actually doing the brunt of the work of keeping communities safe,” said Brattin, who represents Cass County.
The other two measures penalize people who vandalize public monuments and prohibit probation or parole for those who assault first responders.
A large part of Eigel’s bill was focused on what he called the “Law Enforcement Bill of Rights.” It’s a series of statutory changes, “that seek to strengthen their due process rights when they’ve been accused of misconduct in an internal investigation,” he said.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice