DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was in Dallas Thursday to announce legislative proposals that give harsher penalties to people involved in riots, which includes mandatory jail time.
Speaking at the Dallas Police Association headquarters, Abbott proposed legislation that deters peaceful protests from becoming riots as residents continue to call for change, stemming from recent police shootings of Black residents.
The governor proposed that causing injury or destroying property during a riot would be considered a felony. Assaulting a law enforcement officer during riot would lead to a mandatory jail sentence of at least six months, according to Abbott’s proposal.
Protesters or rioters who block hospital entrances and exits would be charged with a felony under the new proposal.
Abbott also said the proposal includes making use of fireworks during a protest or riot a crime that could lead to jail, mentioning how fireworks can cause injuries and can sound like gunfire.
Lastly, the governor proposed making it a felony to aid riots through funds or assistance from organizations.
“Some people participate in riots without ever being there. What they do is they aid and they abet riots with funds or organizational assistance. This will be a felony that will lead to jail time,” Abbott said. “We also proposed giving the attorney general the power to pursue civil penalties against people in organizations that assist in riots
Abbott ended by saying that people who are arrested for these offenses under the new proposal must remain in jail until at least their first court appearance.
“This will prevent the mockery of the revolving-door arrests that we saw in Dallas during the riots that occurred early this year and will ensure that these dangerous rioters will not be immediately released back onto the streets to engage in further riots without first having to go before a court appearance,” Abbott said.
Abbott’s new proposals come almost a day after the Dallas City Council voted on its new budget plan that keeps police funding in place but cuts the department’s overtime budget by $7 million. The budget amendment would use almost $4 million of that cut to hire civilians at the police department and the rest would go to other public safety measures.
Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata spoke at the news conference, saying changes to police departments need to happen constructively.
“Do we have to change our profession? Are there things that we need to fix? Absolutely. But they need to be done in constructive ways. If we’re going to take money from police departments, we should not be taking money because somebody is yelling and screaming telling us we should,” Mata said.
Civil rights attorney Kim Cole believes the proposals are a heavy-handed attempt to discourage protests.
“He is following the party line and going with the national narrative that those who protest against injustice are criminals and that is absolutely inaccurate,” Cole said.