The General Assembly may increase charges for rioters that came from out of state, were paid to riot, or committed multiple riot-related offenses. Under the proposed bill, rioters would face a minimum of 60 days’ incarceration if they engage in two or more of those riot-related offenses. Current Tennessee Code doesn’t factor in details of residency or compensation for punishing rioters.
State Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) introduced the bill in the beginning of February. Its companion bill in the House was introduced by State Representative Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro) a day later. The bill is expected to be placed on the Senate’s calendar soon, and may soon emerge from committee in the House.
In a statement to The Tennessee Star, Bell emphasized that the bill wouldn’t extend to protestors – only those who engage in the violent or destructive behaviors of rioting.
“The right to assemble peacefully is one of our most cherished as Americans and this bill continues to uphold it. This bill does not deal with protestors – it deals with rioters, and in this case professional paid rioters or those who come to Tennessee from out of state and are bent on causing violence and destruction,” explained Bell. “The legislation adds to the offense of aggravated rioting to include those who are compensated to participate in a riot or travel from outside the state to participate in a riot. This bill also increases the mandatory minimum sentence for aggravated riot[ing] from 45 days to 60 days when a person knowingly participates in a riot and is also engaged in conduct that constitutes two or more of the other elements of the offense.”
In a Facebook video summarizing his bill, Bell mentioned how he’d visited downtown a day after the downtown Nashville riot occurred last summer.
“We need to make sure we punish these people as heavily as we can if they’re coming from out of state or if they’re being paid,” asserted Bell.
As The Star reported, another bill addressing rioter behavior was introduced earlier this session. The “anti-riot” legislation would increase charges for protestors blocking roadways or throwing objects at others, and decriminalize individuals who unintentionally hit them with a vehicle. That legislation was recommended for passage by the House Criminal Justice Committee, and was assigned last week to the Finance, Ways, and Means Committee. Its companion in the Senate has yet to be placed on the calendar for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee recommended the bill for passage last week. The Criminal Justice Committee is scheduled to review the bill on Wednesday.
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