Anyone who encourages a riot or engages in violence during a riot would face felony charges under a bill Wisconsin’s Assembly is poised to take up Wednesday.
The Republican-backed measure would make urging, promoting or organizing a riot a felony punishable by up to three years and six months in prison. Engaging in violence during a riot would a felony with up to six years in prison.
The bill defines a riot as a disturbance involving violence that’s part of a gathering of at least three people. The act of violence must have a clear and present danger of property damage or personal injury.
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Assembly approval would send the bill to the Senate. However, its prospects look dim. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a similar bill last year that would have made attending a riot a misdemeanor with up to nine months’ jail, and participating in a riot that causes property damage or injuries would have been a felony with up to three years and six months in prison.
Evers said in his veto message that it’s already a crime to refuse police orders to withdraw from an unlawful assembly, and that the bill could infringe on free speech rights.
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Republicans introduced the bill after protesters burned swaths of downtown Kenosha, Wisconsin, and damaged statues during demonstrations against police brutality in 2020.