Tennessee Governor, Bill Lee, has quietly signed into law a bill that could prevent some protesters from exercising their vote right.
The new law signed on Thursday August 20, 2020, includes increased measures on those who illegally camp on state property, degrading those protesters who do so to a Class E felony, according a news report.
The bill was pushed through the state legislature in a special three-day session last week and signed with public announcement.
According to the new law, a convicted protester is liable to face up to six years’ imprisonment.
The state of Tennessee is known for a dark history of voter suppression, denying any convicted felons to vote.
“This bill increases the punishment for illegal camping on state property from Class A misdemeanor to Class E felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days imprisonment and an order of restitution for any property damage or loss incurred as a result of the offense,” the HB 8005 read.
The bill also generally prohibits the release of a person arrested for 12 hours from the time of the arrest for any of following offenses: camping on state property, vandalism of government property, rioting, aggravated rioting, inciting a riot, or obstructing a highway.
The law stipulates a measure to forestall recurrence of recent demonstrations that were carried out for months in front of the state capital building.
Protesters resulted in demonstrations in recent times, including the nationwide unrest that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May.
Part of the measures is a compulsory 45-day jail sentence to those guilty of aggravated riot, higher fines for blocking emergency vehicles on highways and Class C felony for assaults on first responders.
Meanwhile, many have expressed their dismay at the new penalties in the new law, which has no publicity from the government.
“We are very disappointed in Governor Lee’s decision to sign this bill, which chills free speech, undermines criminal justice reform and fails to address the very issues of racial justice and police violence raised by the protesters who are being targeted,” executive director at American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, Hedy Weinberg said.