Georgia GOP legislator introduces bill to increase penalties for crimes committed during protests

Georgia GOP legislator introduces bill to increase penalties for crimes committed during protests
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A Republican state senator in Georgia introduced legislation last week that would increase penalties for people who commit crimes during protests.

The Safe Communities Act of 2021, sponsored by Georgia state Sen. Randy Robertson (R), ramps ups the punishments for a variety of crimes, including blocking highways or sidewalks as well as assault and property damage. 

The legislation specifically targets "unlawful assembly," defined in the bill as the assembly of "two or more persons for the purpose of committing an unlawful act."


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

Under the legislation, those who knowingly participated in an assembly with seven or more people during acts of violence or property damage would also be charged with a felony.

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

Local governments that instruct police not to interact with protesters would be liable for any injuries or property damage that occurred during an unlawful assembly under the legislation.

Those convicted under this proposed code would be banned from working for the state of Georgia or any municipality. 

Robertson’s bill would also allow the state to withhold funding for any municipality that reduces budgets for law enforcement by 30 percent or more.


Robertson is a retired deputy with the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office and a current active member of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union. His bill currently has 15 Republican co-authors.

Georgia Senate Democratic Whip Harold Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the bill is a reaction to protests against racial injustice and police brutality that stretched across the country last year. 

“This bill is a reaction to persons who exercise their First Amendment rights under the Constitution,” he said.

Violent gatherings erupted in cities around the nation last summer over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed during a violent arrest by Minneapolis police officers. 

Protests following Floyd's death raged in downtown Atlanta, with vandalism reported outside CNN's headquarters and the state Capitol. One video showed a firework thrown at police.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance BottomsKeisha Lance BottomsAtlanta mayor issues order to expand ballot access Chelsea Clinton gets her own podcast Biden: Georgia law is 'Jim Crow in the 21st century' MORE (D) denounced the protests at the time, saying, "This is not a protest. ... This is chaos."