COLUMBUS, OH (WCMH)- Ohio lawmakers are working on several controversial bills that would increase the penalties for crimes committed during violent protests.
This comes after a year of historic protests in Downtown Columbus.
“We know the constitution is for everybody. We the people and we have a right to be heard and that’s the only way we can hold our government accountable,” said Pastor Aaron Phillips, who testified against the legislation on Thursday.
Ohio Lawmakers have introduced several bills including House Bill 22 and House Bill 109 that would, among other things, expand what is considered obstruction of justice and increase penalties for crimes committed during protests that turn to riots. Michael Weinman, Director of Governmental Affairs for the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, said his members are being assaulted and harassed during protests and outside of them. He says these bills will deter people from this kind of behavior.
“These bills strike a balance between protecting an officer and protecting a peaceful protest,” said Weinman.
Many people showed up during a hearing this week and testified against these bills, saying it infringes on someone’s first amendment right to protest. Opponents also pointed out that many of the things this bill is looking to stop are already against the law.
“It doesn’t give us more power and why not now? We’re seeing these offenses occur. Now we need to deter these actions from going forward,” said Weinman.
“We’re not proponents of assaulting police, but we want to make sure we have a right to speak and say what needs to be said and this is not a police state police have to be held accountable just like the rest of us,” said Phillips.
These bills are currently in committee.