GOP bill would target Ohio protesters with terrorism law

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins - Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — People attending a rally who end up accused of violating an anti-riot law could be targeted with a provision normally used against terroristic activity under legislation approved Wednesday by the GOP-controlled Ohio House. The measure was proposed in the wake of racial injustice and police brutality protests in summer 2020.

The anti-riot bill also increases penalties for rioting, create the crimes of riot assault and riot vandalism, and make it illegal to harm someone based on their status as a first responder.

In addition, the legislation allows police officers harmed during riots to sue people or organizations for damages, as well as people or groups accused of filing false complaints against officers.

The bill expands Ohio’s corrupt activity law to include knowingly providing “material support or resources” — anything from lodging, training, or transportation — with the intent that such support aids in the carrying out of a riot. Material support is conduct often tied in both state and federal law to actions by alleged terrorist groups.

The legislation now heads to the Ohio Senate.

The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union calls the legislation an extreme attack on free speech. Democrats say it’s unnecessary because it prohibits behavior already illegal under Ohio law.

Also Wednesday, the House approved legislation prohibiting Ohio governments from stopping sales of guns or ammunition during a public emergency. The Senate passed a similar bill last October.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press