State-by-State Wave of 'Blue Lives Matter' Laws Concern Activists
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.