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Tennessee Gov. Signs Bill Increasing Criminal Punishment For Violent Protesters

'We saw lawlessness that needed to be addressed immediately. And that was done so...'

While Democratic-run cities such as Portland and Chicago continue to be overrun by violent protesters, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill last week increasing criminal punishment for protesters deemed disruptive by law enforcement officials.

During a special session convened by Lee, the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed HB8005 last week, which states that those who illegally camp on state property could face a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison. The punishment before was only a misdemeanor.

The bill also imposes a mandatory minimum 45-day hold if convicted of aggravated rioting; enhances the fine for obstructing emergency vehicles from accessing highways; requires a court to order restitution for damaging state property; and creates a Class C felony offense for aggravated assault against a first responder—which carries a $15,000 fine and mandatory minimum 90-day prison sentence.

State Rep. William Lamberth introduced the bill earlier this month after months of protests in front of the Tennessee state capitol, which resulted in “vandalism and defacement of property, overnight camping on public property in violation of state law, and other risks to public safety,” according to the legislation.

Lee confirmed that this bill was a response to the lawlessness protesters had tried to bring into Tennessee earlier this summer.

“I think what we saw was a courthouse on fire and businesses being broken into and vehicles being damaged,” he said. “We saw lawlessness that needed to be addressed immediately. And that was done so.”

At least one protester involved in the two-month-long demonstration outside the Tennessee capitol has been charged with a felony for vandalizing government property, according to WLPN.

Meanwhile, rioters in Portland continue to destroy the city. A mob set a police precinct on fire last night, and law enforcement charged one rioter with three felonies for violently beating an innocent citizen.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.

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