Nassau legislators approve bill to let police sue protesters who harass, injure them
Nassau County legislators voted Monday to approve a bill that would allow police to sue protesters who harass or injure them.
The measure passed by a vote of 12 to 6, largely along party lines.
The bill would make Nassau police officers and other first responders a protected class under the county’s human rights law. Nassau correction officers would also be protected.
It would allow police to sue protesters with fines ranging from $25,000 to $50,000.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran issued a statement saying, "“I’m proud of the dedicated first responders who’ve made Nassau the safest County in America, and I will continue to stand against defunding the police. My administration is committed to protecting the brave men and women of law enforcement who keep us safe. There were many speakers today who questioned this legislation. Now that it has been passed by the Legislature, I will be making an inquiry to the Attorney General’s Office to review and provide some advice.”
Legislators listened to dozens of residents for hours and at times the meeting had to be stopped while lawmakers asked people not to resort to name calling. There was even a chant of "pull the bill" that echoed through the packed chamber.
Legislator Josh Lafazan sponsored the bill. He said in a statement to News 12: "There is no justification for violence against law enforcement officers. And these bills will add further protections in law to protect Nassau County's finest as they protect us."
Civil rights activists say this is in retaliation to the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted following the death of George Floyd.
Civil rights attorney Fred Brewington says, "This is an enormous grant of power to police who don't need to have this power and also don't need to try to utilize a lawsuit that will basically silence individuals by threatening them that they could lose their livelihood, lose their property and their bank accounts."
Civil rights activists say it could have a chilling effect on demonstrations and protesters' First Amendment rights.
A member of the Lakeview branch of the NAACP says she's in complete disbelief that the bill passed. The NAACP member says, "I cannot believe that Nassau County legislators would vote and try to suppress the freedom of speech that we all have as citizens. I also am disturbed by the penalties that are associated with it."
A full copy of the bill can be found here.