“There are significant state and federal constitutional issues with the bill in terms of its impact on freedom of assembly and speech,” said Senate Special Judiciary Chairwoman Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat.
The bill, filed last week, would make blocking a highway during an “unlawful assembly” a felony, carrying a punishment of one to five years in prison and/or a fine of $1,000 to $5,000. Any groups of seven or more who damage property or are violent against another person also would be charged with a felony.
Also, under the bill, anyone who commits a crime while gathered in a group could be charged with racketeering.
Those who are convicted of offenses related to “unlawful assembly,” defined as “the assembly of two or more persons for the purpose of committing an unlawful act,” would be banned from working for the state or any municipality.
Local government agencies that instructed their law enforcement officers not to interact with protesters could be sued by anyone who was injured or whose property was damaged. And any Georgia municipality that cut its law enforcement funding by more than 30% could have state funding withheld.
Robertson said he was glad some of the Senate Republican leadership agreed to co-sponsor the legislation, including Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan of Carrollton and Senate Public Safety Chairman John Albers of Roswell.
“If we want to protect citizens and if we want to protect free speech and if we want to protect the men and women that go out there and protect the people who want to promote free speech, then I think this is a perfect piece of legislation to do that with,” Robertson said.