For several weeks, we have seen chaos reign supreme in leftist cities and states across our nation.
Whether it’s the unrest in Portland, Oregon, that has lasted more than 90 days, autonomous zones in Seattle, Washington, or the destruction of monuments and defacement of memorials in our nation’s capital, we have reached a pivotal point in our history.
What’s become all too familiar during each of these incidents, as well as others that have occurred here in Tennessee, is the blatant disregard for the safety of members of law enforcement, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, firefighters, and other first responders. These brave men and women often work long hours, and they risk their lives every day as they respond to emergency situations within their communities.
During our recently-concluded special session, my colleagues and I sent a strong message of support to these important groups, and a powerful law and order message to all those who desire to replicate the mob action and unruliness we have seen elsewhere through our law and order legislation. This bill strikes a balance by protecting law enforcement, EMS personnel, firefighters, and our first responders. At the same time, it supports the first amendment rights of peaceful protestors, while also holding all those who escalate civil demonstrations into acts of aggression, intimidation, rioting, vandalism and violence accountable for their despicable actions.
We all agree there is no place in our civilized society for anarchy, chaos, and lawlessness. The law and order bill holds those who promote these egregious acts accountable through the creation of a series of mandatory minimum prison sentences. These include a 30-day mandatory minimum sentence for assault against law enforcement, firefighters, and first responders and 90-day sentences for aggravated assault against our heroic individuals. Under the proposal, anyone who participates in a riot or who commits the crime of aggravated rioting will face mandatory minimum penalties of 30 and 45 days behind bars respectively, as well as orders of restitution for any damage resulting from their unruly actions.
Those who oppose this legislation because it clarifies Tennessee’s existing laws related to illegal camping on state property continue to spread the narrative that we are silencing the voices of peaceful protestors. That is simply not the case. Peaceful demonstrations and civil gatherings are part of the fabric of our free society, and we fully encourage and support these types of assemblies. However, we must hold those who thrive on disorderly behavior to lawful standards.
My colleagues and I will always fight to preserve the rights of Tennesseans enshrined within our constitution. However, we will not stand for rioting, mob action or lawlessness in Tennessee. I appreciate Gov. Bill Lee for signing this law and order legislation, and I continue to proudly stand for law and order in our community and across this state. I ask all of you to join with me and to continue to pray for, thank, and remember our law enforcement, EMS, firefighters and our first responders.
William Lamberth is the House Majority Leader for the 111th Tennessee General Assembly. He is also a member of the House Finance, House Government Operations, and House Calendar & Rules Committees, as well as the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Lamberth lives in Portland and represents Tennessee House District 44, which includes part of Sumner County.