Lawmakers in Nassau County, on New York’s Long Island, are considering a bill that would allow police officers and other first responders to sue protesters for financial damage if they are harassed, menaced or injured while performing their duties, the Associated Press reports.
The proposal specifies that a lawyer for the county could sue individual protesters for up to $25,000–an assessment that would double if the damages occurred during a riot. First responders often enjoy qualified immunity that blocks personal criminal charges or civil lawsuits for actions done in the commission of their jobs.
The bill would classify police officers and first responders as a “protected class” under the county’s human rights laws. The county’s current Human Rights Law provides protection from discrimination based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. No professions are listed as a “protected class.”
“If you want to shut someone down, take away their livelihood,” Long Island civil rights attorney Frederick Brewington said, claiming that the proposal is in retaliation for BLM demonstrations in the area after George Floyd’s murder in Minnesota. “If you want to shut someone down take away their spirit. This is intended to evoke fear in the community … This is payback. It’s not right. It’s not acceptable and it is against the law.”
The bill is sponsored by a Democratic and an independent left-leaning member of the county legislature. The Democratic county executive hasn’t announced if she would sign the bill if it passed the 19-member, Republican-led legislature