MADISON (NBC 26) — After the summer of 2020 saw protests in Kenosha and demonstrations at the U.S. Capitol, Wisconsin lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that creates stricter penalties for those participating in a riot.
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Under the proposal, attending a riot would be a misdemeanor punishable up to nine months in jail. If there's property damage or injuries, it would be a felony that carries up to 3.5 years in prison. Anyone who attacks or throws a bodily substance at a National Guard member would face a felony and up to 3.5 years in prison.
Senator Van Wanggaard, (R) Racine, authored the bill. He said the idea came about four years ago following riots in the Milwaukee area.
"We saw there was no definition for somebody being a rioter," Wanggaard said. "I think this is a good step for us to send a message that we are not going to tolerate buildings being burnt to the ground. There's nothing wrong with protesting if they do it lawfully."
The bill defines riots as a "public disturbance" involving at least three people where someone commits or threatens violence against people or property.
Some feel that language isn't clear enough.
"If this becomes law - which it probably won't - it sets up a vague standard that'll have to go to court to try and decide, is this constitutional, is it not constitutional," said Sen. Tim Carpenter, (D) Milwaukee.
The bill now goes to Gov. Tony Evers who can sign or veto it.