Dem bill bans tear gas, GOP bills establish crimes of ‘anarchy’

    Tear gas at the Lansing police brutality protest, May 31, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

    As protests against racism and police brutality persist in Michigan and beyond, two pieces of legislation introduced in the state House last week illustrate just how differently Democrat and Republican lawmakers are approaching the issue.

    House Bill 5925, introduced by state Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt), would create the “tear gas prohibition act.” The legislation would prohibit law enforcement officers from using tear gas as a crowd control mechanism, as they have in cities in Michigan and across the country. Hope has noted it can be very harmful to protesters’ health — especially during a pandemic for COVID-19,  which attacks the respiratory system.

    State Rep. Lynn Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids Twp.), who is running for the 3rd congressional seat currently occupied by U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (L-Grand Rapids), has legislation focused on destruction of property, which Republicans have focused on in condemning protests.

    Afendoulis introduced a set of bills Wednesday that appear to crack down on individuals who break the law while protesting.

    House Bill 5900 would create a new crime called an “act of social and domestic anarchy,” while House Bill 5901 lays out procedural guidelines for sentencing. President Donald Trump has falsely claimed that “Antifa,” a loose group of online anarchists, is behind the protests.

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    Afendoulis defines an act of social and domestic anarchy as:

    • Intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence or affect the conduct of government or a unit of government through intimidation or coercion
    • An act that would be a violent felony under Michigan law
    • An act that the person knows or has reason to know is dangerous to human life or destructive to property

    The new crime would be added to Michigan penal code in the same section that defines acts of terrorism.

    Punishment for the felony would entail a prison sentence of up to 20 years and/or a fine — either up to $250,000, or three times the value of the property damaged or destroyed by the crime; “whichever is greater.” Committing such an act would also leave the responsible party open to civil lawsuits from those affected.

    All three of the bills were referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

    Laina G. Stebbins
    Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, civil rights and criminal justice. She is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or listening to podcasts, she loves art and design, discovering new music, being out in nature and spending time with her two very special cats.