Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) amped up riot protections for police and other public and civil servants by signing the “Back the Blue Act” on Thursday.
Reynolds enacted the legislation — SF 342 — during a news conference at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.
“In Iowa, we Back the Blue,” a tweet from Reynolds said in part. The act increases qualified immunity protections and elevates charges related to riots and unlawful assemblies.
In Iowa, we Back the Blue. Proud to sign the “Back the Blue Act” this morning at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy! pic.twitter.com/pX0mYgLwsu
— Gov. Kim Reynolds (@IAGovernor) June 17, 2021
The legislation increases the penalty for anyone who participates willingly in a riot to a “Class D Felony,” according to the text. Charges will also be elevated to a Class D Felony for anyone who assaults and seriously injures a public or civil servant and/or brandishes a dangerous weapon in the process. Assault resulting in bodily injury or mental illness will warrant an aggravated misdemeanor charge.
- Unlawful assembly considered an aggravated misdemeanor
- Interference with public order control considered aggravated misdemeanor
- Disorderly conduct considered a simple misdemeanor
Under the new legislation, drivers will not be held liable for hitting a rioter engaged in disorderly conduct, unless the driver is behaving recklessly beforehand. The new rule does not apply to lawful, permitted protests, according to the text.
Criminal mischief will be treated as a serious misdemeanor, and anyone who destroys or damages public property will be ordered to pay restitution.
Critics of the legislation argue that it causes division and stifles citizens’ right to protest.
“I really think this bill unnecessarily pits law enforcement against groups like Black Lives Matter and other protesters just at the time when we need to be bringing all of these groups together,” said Rep. Christina Bohannan (D-Iowa City) during a House debate Wednesday night.
Others, such as Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, applauded the move and noted the importance of enabling police to do their jobs properly under pressure:
Republicans have been clear – we stand with Iowa’s men and women in law enforcement. This legislation supports law enforcement so they can confidently do their jobs when their communities need it most. The men and women in blue put their lives on the line every single time they are on duty, and too often now the loudest voices are demonizing them. To them I can confidently say, now, the voices of Iowans are being heard and they support you.
It’s important to note that all Democrats, with the exception of two, opposed this bill. Iowa Democrats are headed down a dangerous road, inching toward the radical idea of defunding the police. They must put their foot down and show they are better than their national counterparts. Silence on the defund the police movement should no longer be tolerated.
Republican law makers in at least 34 states have introduced more than 80 anti-riot bills in 2021 following a summer of Black Lives Matter protests and riots, which in several cases led to mass destruction of property and more than $1-2 billion in damage.