Activists who regularly come face-to-face with police officers are among those concerned about a new wave of so-called “Blue Lives Matter” laws that have swept through 14 state legislatures.
Alabama could become the next state to enact tough new laws that make attacking first responders a hate crime, and an African-American Democrat could lead the way.
Alabama Rep. John Rogers (D) has introduced legislation that identifies police officers as members of a protected group so that attacks against them become hate crimes.
“If you kill somebody just because they are of a certain race it’s a hate crime, so if you kill a police officer because he is a police officer or a fireman, it should be hate crime also,” Rogers told WBRC.
Texas was the most recent state to see lawmakers approve a Blue Lives Matter proposal. The legislature sent Gov. Greg Abbott a bill in late May that makes attacking or even threatening police officers or judges hate crimes.
The Texas legislation was a response to the 2016 ambush attack that killed six Dallas police officers and a 2015 attack on a district judge outside her home.
“At a time when law enforcement officers increasingly come under assault simply because of the job they hold, Texas must send a resolute message that the state will stand by the men and women who serve and protect our communities,” Gov. Abbott said.
Along with Texas, state legislatures in Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia have already added crimes against police, firefighters and EMTs to their list of hate crimes.
But maybe the Blue Lives Matter wave won’t have to go state-by-state. The movement could sweep across the U.S. from Congress.
U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) filed H.R. 4760 earlier this year to make attacks on police officers the same as hate crimes nationwide.
“I was looking for something that could send a very strong message that the federal government stands by police officers,” the Denver Post reported Buck said.
Sonia Bill Hernandez of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund warned of a Blue Lives Matter backlash.
She told the AP that so-called “Blue Lives Matter” laws that strengthen criminal penalties against people who attack police officers only “deepen divisions between law enforcement and communities with no tangible benefit to law enforcement.”
Jens Ohlin, a criminal law professor at Cornell University Law School in New York, told the AP the Blue Lives Matter laws all “reek of political pressure to do something symbolic as a way of expressing solidarity with police officers.”
But to a community activist like Zaki Baruti in St. Louis County, Mo., Blue Lives Matter laws are nothing but a way to cut the legs out from under the Black Lives Matter movement.
“This is another form of heightened repression of activists,” Baruti told the Associated Press. “It sends a message to protesters that we better not look at police cross-eyed.”
Other critics of Blue Lives Matter legislation contend attacking a cop is bad, killing a cop is worse, but laws making attacks on police the same as hate crimes go too far.
“We believe that being a police officer is not an innate part of a person’s identity. You’re not born a police officer,” wrote the Denver Post editorial board.
“Further, police are provided many protections already. We arm them and grant them great leeway in use of deadly force,” the Denver Post editorial continued. “We protect them with body armor and other gear. Rarely do juries or review panels charge officers who kill alleged offenders, but the justice system comes down extra hard when one of its own meets with harm.”
The heated argument over the movements apparently boiled over in Alabama.
Four men face assault charges after allegedly attacking a high school student who posted pro-police, Blue Lives Matter comments online.
Seventeen-year-old Brian Ogle was hospitalized with serious head injuries after being found bleeding on the ground after a homecoming game. His mother, Brandi Allen, told Fox News that Brian responded with a Blue Lives Matter argument when he was confronted by four former students who were wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts.
Police said the attack on Ogle, who is white, may have been racially motivated.
“Instead of us planning for his 18th birthday, we’re here. Why? Because he made a statement that he backs the blue?” Allen told Fox News in the hospital as her son recovered from his injuries. “I’m still trying to understand how someone, no matter the color of their skin, can do this to another human being.”