Ohio House Passes Bill Targeting Protesters, Riots

by J.D. Davidson


Allowing law enforcement officers to sue for injuries or false claims suffered during riots became closer to becoming law in Ohio.

Democrats and other groups called the bill passed by the Ohio House an attack on free speech, however.

House Bill 109, which heads to the Senate, also would increase penalties for rioting and create new laws for riot assault and riot vandalism. It also would punish those who provide help to those who carry out a riot.

The bill, originally introduced in November 2020, was in response to protests that summer in Columbus and throughout the country in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

In Columbus, protests centered around the downtown area, mostly at Capitol Square.

More than 100 businesses were vandalized, along with numerous government buildings. The city of Columbus enacted a curfew, and Gov. Mike DeWine called in the Ohio National Guard to maintain order.

At the time, Rep. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, called the disrespect of law enforcement a substantial issue across the state.

“The disrespect right now, it is devastating to the uniformed police officers,” Abrams said in 2020. “I’m not saying there aren’t a few bad apples across the nation, but there are bad apples in anything you do.”

Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, said the bill would discourage people from becoming involved with lawful protests and civil demonstrations. He called the bill’s language vague and said it would put charity groups at risk for prosecution.

“At its core, HB 109 is un-American because it upsets the fragile balance between law and order and liberty and justice, and by doing so, it puts at risk a basic fundamental freedom: the freedom of speech. A freedom that defines America,” Leland said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio said in a tweet the bill is meant to intimidate people who exercise their First Amendment rights. The group’s chief lobbyist also tweeted the proposed law is dangerous and criticized lawmakers for working on the bill rather than spending time on congressional and state legislative districts.

“Less than one month after quoting MLK all over social media, the Ohio House today passed HB 109. This dangerous, undemocratic bill would have imprisoned MLK, seized his assets [and] shut down his church [and] groups he worked with. This is what they champion instead of passing fair maps,” Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist with ACLU of Ohio, tweeted.

– – –

J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is a regional editor for The Center Square.



Related posts