Tennessee’s GOP Governor Signed Bill Increasing Punishments For Certain Protests

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R).Screengrab / WATE 6 On Your Side / YouTube


The law ups some punishments to felonies. Convicted felons in Tennessee lose their right to vote.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) signed a bill in August that increases punishments for certain kinds of protests, according to The Hill.

  • The Republican-controlled state General Assembly passed the bill the week before, and Lee signed it into law with no announcement.
  • “Among other things, the new law stipulates that people who illegally camp on state property will face a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison,” the outlet reported, noting that “People found guilty of a felony in Tennessee lose the right to vote.”
  • It also “slaps a mandatory 45-day sentence for aggravated rioting, boosts the fine for blocking highway access to emergency vehicles and enhances the punishment for aggravated assault against a first responder to a Class C felony.”
  • American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg told The Associated Press in a statement:

“We are very disappointed in Governor Lee’s decision to sign this bill, which chills free speech, undermines criminal justice reform and fails to address the very issues of racial justice and police violence raised by the protesters who are being targeted.

“While the governor often speaks about sentencing reform, this bill contradicts those words and wastes valuable taxpayer funds to severely criminalize dissent.”

  • The Hill noted that state lawmakers passed the bill “after almost two months of sustained protests outside the state Capitol, where demonstrators have been calling for racial justice reforms in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police in May.”

Read the full report.


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