Georgia senators say hate crimes law should protect police
ATLANTA (AP) - Republicans in the Senate of the Georgian state have added the police as a protected class to the proposed hate crime laws, which the heads of state consider to be essential to the legislative period.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a hate crime law passed by the State House over a year ago on Friday evening, but added "first aiders" as a protected class alongside race, skin color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or disability.
"It is imperative that we support our law enforcement personnel who are risking their lives for us, just as we do for these other classes, categories, groups, and individuals," said Republican Senator Bill Cowsert of Athens, who made the change introduced.
The panel's Democrats spoke out against the move after the provisional chief of police from Atlanta said the members of the force felt abandoned in the face of protests that demanded massive changes in policing.
"If we want to talk about other law enforcement safeguards, we can talk about those safeguards," said Sen. Elena Parent, a Democrat from Atlanta. "But putting them in the same legislation as unchangeable features misses the moment and is a slap in the face."
Republican from McDonough, Senator Brian Strickland, said he initially supported the adoption of the bill without changes, but said, "I don't know how we can get rid of first responders," before voting for the first responder bill.
The urgency to pass the law has increased after a 25-year-old black man named Ahmaud Arbery was persecuted and killed near Braunschweig in February. A white father and a white son are charged with his death. Pressure from corporate groups and others increased after George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, triggering nationwide protests against racial injustice and inequality.
"The time to act is now," said a group of organizations, including the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, in a statement on Thursday.
But the Senate maneuver on Friday brings a big boost to the move to make it.
MP Chuck Efstration, a Republican from Dacula who sponsored the version of the house, would not commit to voting against the bill if he returned to the house with first aid protection, but said, "Evil faith on behalf of the Senate, yourself not to engage A meaningful dialogue is remarkable, ”accuses the Chamber's republican leadership of attempting to sabotage the bill.
"It is incredibly important that this law be passed this year and that poison pill changes that are made only for the purpose of splitting and opposing Democrats to ensure that the law fails are unacceptable," said Efstration.
MP Calvin Smyre, a Columbus democrat and the longest-serving member of the House, said: "This is certainly something we cannot live with and that we cannot support."
The change comes after Republican governor Geoff Duncan, who holds the presidency of the Senate, proposed a version that covers most categories of the house, but also age, race, creed, culture, ethnicity, homelessness, gender, and veteran of the armed forces would have included status, involvement in civil rights activities, or exercise rights protected by the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This bill rolled onto the runway on Thursday, but immediately went back to the hangar and never reappeared.
The state has remained one of four without such a law because many conservatives thought the idea was cool. Cole Muzio is the executive director of the conservative Family Policy Alliance of Georgia. He told the committee on Thursday before first aiders were added that the bill would not save a life. "What it does is that it causes thought crimes," said Muzio. "And it encourages us not to pay attention to how we are equal, not to how we are all created in the image of God." but to see how we are the others. "
Senator Harold Jones II, an Augusta Democrat who is one of three Democrats on the Senate committee, said it was particularly symbolic that the Republicans took action on June 19.
"Doing this, especially on June 19, is just a spit given what this bill is about, and I think it's cynical," said Jones. "I think it's done for political purposes. It makes it cheaper."
Jones said he didn't think the language could be removed in negotiations between the house and the senate. "It doesn't come out in a conference," he said.
Jones, like several other opponents of the change, noted that Georgian lawmakers had increased penalties for attacks on police officers in another law a few years ago.
"We already have enough protection for police officers," said Jones.
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