Protesters who use lasers, fireworks or block roads during demonstrations could face increased criminal charges according to two bills sent to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Sunday and Monday.
Texas House Bill 9 would increase the criminal penalty for individuals who obstruct roadways while House Bill 2366 could increase criminal penalties for individuals who interfere with law enforcement actions or endanger officials. House Bill 2366 would make the use of laser pointers against police a third-degree felony or first-degree felony if the actions resulted in “serious bodily injury,” according to the Austin American-Statesman.
“Law enforcement officers face dangerous situations every day in the name of public safety. During the riots last summer, we witnessed the use of lasers and fireworks against police, injuring both officers and peaceful protestors, and rioters across the country blocking roadways and preventing emergency vehicle access to hospitals,” Abbott told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“That chaos won’t be tolerated in Texas,” Abbott added. “We will ensure that these dangerous actions are punished to the fullest extent of the law. I thank the Legislature for passing the much needed protections for our law enforcement, peaceful protestors, and our communities in HB 9 and HB 2366, and look forward to signing both into law.”
Texas House Bill 2366 would prohibit the use of fireworks to interfere with police enforcement actions such as evading lawful arrests or detentions. The use of commercial-grade fireworks would result in a second-degree felony while consumer-grade fireworks would be a state jail felony, however, if the action results in a serious injury of an officer the user would face first-degree felony charges.
“We want to protect law enforcement as much as we can,” said Republican Texas state Sen. Bryan Hughes, who sponsored House Bill 2366, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Democratic Texas state Sen. Borris Miles, a former police officer, opposed the measure until he researched the use of laser pointers, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
“There are some stronger lasers that can cause serious injury from a distance,” Miles said, the Austin American-Statesman reported. “We should continue to protect all law enforcement.”
Texas House Bill 9 made it a state felony to knowingly block emergency vehicles using lights and sirens from accessing roads or impeding access to hospitals or emergency medical care facilities punishable by a minimum of 10 days in a state jail.
“Legislation cracking down on protestors for blocking roads PASSES in the Senate,” Abbott said on Twitter Saturday. “Peaceful protest doesn’t include blocking roadways and preventing emergency vehicle access. That chaos won’t be tolerated in Texas.”
The Texas state Senate voted to pass the bill without discussion and Abbott said he plans to sign the measure into law, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
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