Indiana lawmaker proposes ban on unemployment for those convicted of crimes during protests

Indiana lawmaker proposes ban on unemployment for those convicted of crimes during protests
© Greg Nash

Republican Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.) has introduced legislation that would bar individuals from receiving federal unemployment assistance if they are convicted of a crime during a protest.

The Support Peaceful Protest Act, which was introduced last Friday, would target individuals who are convicted of federal offenses during the course of demonstrations. According to a copy of the bill's text, people would be prohibited from receiving unemployment assistance under the CARES Act or any other aid package approved amid the coronavirus pandemic if they are convicted of a crime related to a protest.

The bill would also hold individuals convicted of federal offenses financially liable for cost of federal policing.

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The legislation comes as large-scale demonstrations have swept the nation in response to the police killings of Black Americans. Protests erupted nationwide again last week following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.

In Kenosha and other U.S. cities, many protests have led to violence and the destruction of property. 

Banks said the legislation was motivated in part by scenes last week of protesters confronting people who attended the Republican National Convention outside the White House. He claimed local leadership in certain metropolitan areas, including Washington, D.C., were turning a "blind eye" to this behavior. 

"My bill would take away the enhanced federal benefits — that $600 a week that these people are making to be professional protesters at night," Banks said, adding a suggestion that he thought demonstrators were being paid by "left-wing groups."

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The $600 weekly unemployment insurance expired last month. President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE issued an order earlier this month designed to provide an additional $300 in unemployment, but most states have not implemented it.

In announcing the bill, Banks said in a statement: "Due to enhanced federal benefits, taxpayers are giving wages to jobless rioters that are destroying our communities. We need to cut them off from their funding and make them feel the full financial consequences of their actions."

Trump and Republicans have portrayed the escalating unrest and violence in some U.S. cities as a product of local Democratic leadership. But many Democratic lawmakers have argued that Trump's rhetoric and actions are aggravating tensions.

In a speech in western Pennsylvania on Monday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE said Trump "can’t stop the violence — because for years he has fomented it."

"He may believe mouthing the words law and order makes him strong, but his failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows you how weak he is," Biden said. 

Trump is planning to visit Kenosha on Tuesday to meet with law enforcement and survey damage from riots.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony EversTony EversFederal court says Wisconsin redistricting case can proceed Wisconsin governor seeks to intervene in redistricting case Former Wisconsin lieutenant governor launches gubernatorial campaign MORE (D) urged him to reconsider the trip, noting it could have a negative impact on local efforts to respond to the unrest.