TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Edward Thomson plans to introduce legislation that would impose stricter penalties for people involved in violent protests and attacks on police officers.
Thomson said violent protests across the country, and most recently in Philadelphia, have made it necessary to strengthen state laws to prevent rioting and looting.
“New Jersey needs to send a message that violent protests will not be tolerated and those who engage in this type of behavior will be dealt with harshly,” said Thomson (R-Monmouth). “We have seen all too frequently how a few bad actors can turn a peaceful protest into a dangerous and often tragic situation in matter of moments.”
The bill package, modeled after a proposal from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, expands the definition of participating in a riot, makes rioting punishable by up to 18 months in prison and makes it a crime to organize or promote a violent assembly.
It also creates a new crime of harassing individuals in a place of public accommodation during a riot and increases the penalties for toppling or desecrating a public monument, obstructing highways, and committing assault during a riot.
Thomson said the initiative would also help protect police officers by enhancing penalties, including mandatory prison time, for assaulting or throwing an object at a member of law enforcement during a riot.
“In the past week alone, 30 Philadelphia police officers were injured during riots, including many that were struck by bricks and rocks,” said Thomson. “Anyone who attacks or throws something at a police officer should spend time behind bars and not get off with slap on the wrist.”
Other bills would reduce state aid for towns that defund their police departments and allow citizens to sue a municipality for failing to properly respond to a riot.
“Cities and towns must be held accountable for their actions or failure to take action to protect their residents and businesses,” added Thomson. “Reducing state aid and making towns liable will help ensure they make the necessary investments in law enforcement and prioritize the safety of their community.”