NORMAN — State Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, has filed a bill to amend current legislation set in place for anybody arrested and charged while partaking in a riot.
Announced on Sep. 28, Standridge called his proposal “anti-riot legislation,” which would add stricter punishment to those charged with rioting.
“I cannot state strongly enough that I support the people’s right to peaceably assemble, to protest and to express their points of view — these rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution — but the deliberate and wanton destruction of property and other people’s livelihoods must not and will not be tolerated,” Standridge said.
The main point of Standridge's bill is ensuring those who have their property damaged during a riot receive restitution, he said.
“The bill right now is primarily focused on making sure victims are compensated for damage caused [to their property],” Standridge said. “At this point, it’s a legal discussion because Oklahoma’s laws are pretty good on aggravated assault, so we’re still working on the language right now.”
Although the bill is not yet completed, Standridge said he wanted to put something out there early and well before the deadline since he announced the legislative proposal back in September.
“That’s really the main distinction now,” he said. “But we’re still looking to add more language, we have a little over a month left until deadline day. I just wanted to get a vehicle out earlier since I talked about it a while back.”
In addition to the restitution side of the bill, Standridge said he is also looking to add more language that would protect all first responders in the event of a riot, not just police officers.
“The two things I talked about before, [one] was about first responders,” he said. “I think with law enforcement we’re in pretty good shape — if you [assault] law enforcement, that’s upgraded to aggravated assault, I think, almost by default, so I think we’re good there. Now I’m exploring whether other first responders [Fire Department, EMTs, etc.] are covered when they respond to help they’re not called into the ‘melee,’ if you will.”
Standridge is still working with lawyers to get the correct legal language, but if he does add anything else, it would be to help first responders, he said.
State Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, said she thinks most Oklahomans would be in favor of restitution for individuals having property damaged during a riot, but does not believe this bill actually prevents the crime from occurring.
Although rioting is a fear of many Oklahomans, Boren said she believes that people are missing the bigger issue at hand.
“In Oklahoma, I know a lot of people were concerned about rioting, but in the same news cycle at that time was concern about white supremacists having a foothold in American politics,” Boren said. “The No. 1 domestic threat to Americans is white supremacy, and we need to be proactive about that.”
She said a lot of the property damage that is caused by a peaceful protest being escalated to a riot is caused by white supremacist terrorist groups.
“We need to be proactive on all fronts and be aware in Oklahoma that we do not have a lot of rioting that results in property damage, but we are a state that is prone to being a safe haven for white supremacy,” Boren said. “We need to be more on guard about that and work with [law enforcement] to make sure we’re not communicating to those groups that they will be protected or have a safe harbor here in Oklahoma.”
She also said she believes the timing of Standridge announcing the bill was not coincidental.
“Standridge announced back when he was campaigning for office in September that he was going to be writing this bill,” Boren said. “Because [at the time] people had been watching Fox News and were worried about rioting, and so he was able to take that concern and announce that he was going to write a bill as part of his campaign.”
She said that Standridge announcing that bill is a very effective way for an “incumbent to leverage a hot button issue during a campaign” to announce they’re going to write legislation on that topic.
“Then voters who have that concern feel that the Legislature has power to do something about what concerns them,” Boren said. “... We have a bill that says, ‘This is law and you can’t destroy property or riot,’ so it’s already the law; so, to assume that passing a law prevents property damage is not accurate.”
To read the SB-15 in full, visit the Oklahoma State Senate’s website.
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