Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a law on Thursday, 8/20/2020 that has harsher penalties for protestors if arrested and convicted. The bill was passed along with several measures on COVID-19 liability and telemedicine. According to the Associated Press,
Most notably, the new law now states that those who illegally camp on state property would now face a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison, rather than a misdemeanor. Felony convictions in Tennessee result in the revocation of an individual’s right to vote.
Along with this bill includes harsher penalties on rioting. This includes and 45-day minimum hold for people who are convicted of aggregated rioting. If some assaults a first responder, the fine is $15,000 and a mandatory 90-day minimum prison sentence.
ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said in a statement.
We are very disappointed in Governor Lee’s decision to sign this bill, which chills free speech, undermines criminal justice reform and fails to address the very issues of racial justice and police violence raised by the protesters who are being targeted.While the governor often speaks about sentencing reform, this bill contradicts those words and wastes valuable taxpayer funds to severely criminalize dissent.
Tennessee’s GOP led General Assembly advanced the measures during a brief three-day special legislative session. Governor Lee and the representatives said this bill was passed due to the riots that occurred after protests for George Floyd’s death that led to the destruction of property in the cities.