A Republican Senator in Georgia last week passed laws increasing penalties for people who commit crimes during protests.

The Safe Communities Act of 2021, sponsored by Georgia State Senator Randy Robertson (R), increases penalties for a wide variety of crimes, including blocking highways or sidewalks, and bodily harm and property damage.

The legislation specifically targets “illegal gathering”, which is defined in the draft law as gathering “two or more people for the purpose of committing an illegal act”.

The bill would make blocking a freeway a crime with a sentence of one to five years in prison and / or a fine of between $ 1,000 and $ 5,000.

Under the law, those who knowingly attended a gathering of seven or more people during acts of violence or property damage would also be charged with a criminal offense.

The bill would also allow anyone who commits a crime while gathering in a group to be charged with extortion.

Local governments that instruct the police not to interact with protesters are responsible for any injury or property damage that occurs during an illegal gathering in accordance with the law.

Those convicted under this proposed code would be prohibited from working for the state of Georgia or any other community.

Robertson’s bill would also allow the state to withhold funds for any community that cuts law enforcement budgets by 30 percent or more.

Robertson is a retired MP for the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office and currently an active member of the Fraternal Police Force, the largest police union in the country. His bill currently has 15 Republican co-authors.

Georgia Senate Democratic whip Harold Jones told the Atlanta Journal Constitution the bill was a response to protests against racial injustice and police brutality that spanned the country over the past year.

“This bill is a response to individuals exercising their initial adjustment rights under the Constitution,” he said.

Violent gatherings erupted in cities across the country last summer when George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was forcibly detained by Minneapolis police officers, died.

Protests raged in downtown Atlanta after Floyd’s deathVandalism was reported outside CNN headquarters and the state capitol. A video showed fireworks being thrown at the police.

Atlanta Greater Keisha Lance BottomsKeisha Mayor Lance BottomsAtlanta urges fans not to travel to the Georgia NBA All-Star Game. Georgia GOP legislature introduces bill to increase penalties for crimes committed during the MORE protests (D) denounced the protests at the time and said: “This is not a protest. … This is chaos.”