Local lawmaker co-sponsors bill that would add rioting, looting criminal offense

Ohio Rep. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton.

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Ohio Rep. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton.

COLUMBUS — A pair of southwest Ohio lawmakers introduced a new bill that would create new criminal offenses to combat rioting, looting and violence in the state.

State Rep. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton, introduced House Bill 784 along with Ohio Rep. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, that would create a new riot assault charge if a person engaged in an aggravated riot recklessly causes physical harm that is punishable by a fifth-degree felony. The charges elevate to a fourth-degree if the alleged assault is against a law enforcement officer and a third-degree if the law enforcement officer is seriously injured.

The bill allows any law enforcement officer injured during the alleged riot to file a civil suit against those responsible, including riot organizers.

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The bill also increases penalties for vandalizing public and private property and obstructing roadways during a disorderly assembly.

“Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are important cornerstones of our democracy,” said Abrams. “This legislation embraces the right of all Americans to peacefully assemble and make their voice heard in the public arena while supporting first responders, law enforcement, small businesses and law-abiding Ohioans.”

Carruthers said rioting, looting and violence are “usually from a handful of agitators,” and diminish the message of peaceful demonstrators.

“When businesses are boarded up and shut down as a result of the actions of a few agitators, law-abiding Ohioans lose, small businesses lose and jobs are lost,” she said. “This is a common-sense bill that supports the right to peacefully assemble while holding accountable those who break the law.”

The bill awaits referral to a House committee.

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