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In March, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers vetoed Senate Bill 296, which created a definition for “riot” and provided criminal penalties for participation in one. He stated that current laws already prohibit these activities and that the law could lead to First Amendment violations.
The bill defined a riot as “a public disturbance involving an unlawful assembly” with violence or the threat of violence committed by one or more participants.
Under the Republican-authored bill, a person participating in a riot would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and required to serve a minimum sentence of 30 days. If a person’s activities involve injury or “substantial” property damage, they would be charged with a Class I felony and required to serve a minimum sentence of 45 days.
In an article published last October, The Lawfare Institute and Brookings identified 11 states that passed laws increasing the severity of punishments for rioting and other protest-related acts.
Wisconsin State Legislature: 2021 Senate Bill 296
Office of the Governor | State of Wisconsin: Gov. Evers Veto Message
Wisconsin State Legislature: Class A Misdemeanor
Wisconsin State Legislature: Class I felony
Lawfare: State Anti-Protest Laws and Their Constitutional Implications