The bill is in response to the racial justice protests sparked by the murder of Breonna Taylor.
The Kentucky state Senate on Thursday passed a bill that makes it a crime if someone "accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges a law enforcement officer with offensive or derisive words or by gestures or other physical contact, that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response from the perspective of a reasonable and prudent person," the Louisville Courier Journal reported.
The bill is in response to the racial justice protests that broke out in 2020 after police shot and killed Breonna Taylor while she was sleeping in her own home. The bill's sponsor, GOP state Sen. Danny Carroll, saying that the legislation is a message to people he says, "tried to destroy the city of Louisville."
If the bill becomes law, insulting an officer could become a Class B misdemeanor and carry a punishment of up to 90 days in jail.
Civil rights groups have condemned the legislation, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky saying the bill amounts to "literally criminalizing speech."
"Any attempt to criminalize or erode constitutionally-protected speech should be rejected," the ACLU of Kentucky said in a statement. "Freedom of expression is the bedrock of our democracy. We should not be creating more mandatory minimums, increasing fines or fees, or creating any other statutes that would have a long-term negative impact on Kentuckians and overburden our already beleaguered court system."
The Kentucky bill is one of a number in Republican-run state legislatures seeking to punish those involved in the racial justice protests that cropped up across the United States in 2020 in response to police murders of Black Americans like Taylor and George Floyd.
Oklahoma Republicans on Wednesday passed a bill that would decriminalize running over protesters with cars.
According to the text of the bill, "A motor vehicle operator who unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual shall not be criminally or civilly liable" if the "motor vehicle operator was fleeing from a riot" and had "a reasonable belief that fleeing was necessary to protect the motor vehicle operator from serious injury or death."
That bill, too, is in response to Black Lives Matter protests, when demonstrators would march in the street to demand equality.
Oklahoma Republican state Rep. Kevin McDugle sponsored the bill, and sympathized with a truck driver who in July mowed down protesters on a highway, seriously injuring three people, one of whom was paralyzed from the waist down, the Associated Press reported in February.
"It's not going to be a peaceful protest if you're impeding the freedom of others," McDugle told the AP. "The driver of that truck had his family in there, and they were scared to death."
Other GOP legislators have introduced similar bills in Iowa, Missouri, and Utah.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.