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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

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Hope Karnopp / Wisconsin WatchReporting intern

Hope Karnopp joined Wisconsin Watch as a reporting intern in May 2022. She is a journalism major and is pursuing certificates in public policy and environmental studies at UW-Madison. Hope previously covered state politics as an intern for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She also works with the Daily Cardinal and hosts a radio segment about campus news for WORT-FM, which has been recognized by the Milwaukee Press Club.