Wisconsin Democrats rip anti-riot legislation

Wisconsin Democrats rip anti-riot legislation

Wisconsin Democrats are criticizing a Republican legislative package designed to curb rioting as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech and assembly.

Rep. John Spiros and Sen. Van Wanggaard are pushing three bills that would define a riot as a public disturbance involving violence or a threat during a gathering of at least three people. Participating in a riot or going armed in a riot would be a felony. Blocking a street during a riot would be a misdemeanor.

Democrats on the state Assembly’s judiciary committee took the bill apart during a public hearing Thursday, arguing that the legislation would make everyone standing around one person who makes a threat or commits an act of violence guilty of a felony. They said the bill would chill free speech and is probably unconstitutional.

The bill’s author, Rep. John Spiros, said he took the definition from federal code and his top priority is keeping people safe.

The committee wasn’t expected to vote on the bill Thursday.