The bill that would make murdering protesters in Louisiana legal
BATON ROUGE, La. – On Monday, February 21, Representative Danny McCormick – a 1st term Republican elected in 2019 and representing portions of Bossier and Caddo Parishes – introduced House Bill 101, a bill that would make “a homicide… justified when committed to prevent imminent destruction of property or imminent threat of tumultuous and violent conduct during a riot.”
For context, Louisiana law defines a riot as “a public disturbance involving an assemblage of three or more persons acting together or in concert which by tumultuous and violent conduct, or the imminent threat of tumultuous and violent conduct, results in injury or damage to persons or property or creates a clear and present danger of injury or damage to persons or property.”
If that sounds incredibly vague – both the proposed HB 101 language and the Louisiana legal definition of “riot” – to you, you would not be alone. Civil liberties groups across the country and around the state warned the legislation is “dangerous” and “racially-tinged.”
“I call HB 101 the Kyle Rittenhouse Bill,” said Stephanie Willis, Policy Strategist with the ACLU of Louisiana, referring to the then-17 year old gunman in the 2020 Kenosha, Wisconsin shootings following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. “It’s ridiculous.”
“This is a brazen attempt to justify the killing of Louisianans including friends, family and neighbors who are exercising their constitutional right to peacefully protest for social and environmental justice,” said Kaitlyn Joshua, Gulf Coast Campaigner for Earthworks, a national environmental advocacy organization. “The state legislature should focus on advancing legislation that strengthens communities against climate disaster and injustice instead of proposing laws that further enable violence and harm in our communities.”
“It’s the slave masters green light to kill everyone they can and not worry about criminal consequences,” said Michael McCormick, president of the Louisiana NAACP and of absolutely no relation to the bill’s author.
McCormick – a non-lawyer oil & gas company executive who is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, as well as a member of the National Association for Gun Rights, and the Louisiana Shooters Association – has promoted his bill as the “Riot Protection Act” in at least one online appeal he posted on his official Facebook page. The post asks his followers to sign an online petition supporting the bill – without providing a link to the bill’s language – while asking in the corresponding Facebook post “Why should ANTIFA have more right to destroy your property than you do to defend it?”
According to Louisiana law, ANTIFA – nor any individual or group – has the right to destroy any property, private or public. In addition, no such laws currently exist in Louisiana that grant “more right” to the non-property owner to destroy said property over the right of the rightful property owner to defend themselves and their property, according to LSU law professor Ken Levy.
“First of all, there is no Antifa; it’s a fiction invented by the right to demonize the left because there are no actual demons on the left. Second, self-defense laws, whether Stand Your Ground or Duty to Retreat, are not about protecting property; they are about protecting people,” said Levy, who among other areas, teaches criminal and tort law at the Law Center. “There is no need to expand self-defense laws to protect property because this protection is already fully provided for in defense of property laws, which cover every kind of physical property.”
McCormick’s bill was introduced the day after the shooting death of June Knightely in Portland, Oregon. Knightly was a respected Portland-area volunteer who was killed during confrontation with 43-year-old Benjamin Smith, who police say showed up to the protest against police violence, yelled at protesters, and then shot at the group, killing the 60-year-old Knightly and wounding four others.
The bill also comes less than two years after the murder of Danny Buckley, a 61 year old homeless man who was shot and killed by so-called vigilante Jace Boyd outside of Trader Joe’s on Perkins Road in Baton Rouge in August 2020 for the crime of alleged panhandling.
The Portland & Kenosha shootings underscore the dangers, advocates say, of trusting untrained civilians with guns to decipher the nature of “tumultuous and violent conduct” or even what “imminent” means. The Buckley killing underscores how real the danger of racist, ignorant vigilante justice already is here in South Louisiana.
“Research shows us that Louisiana’s ‘Shoot First’ or ‘Stand Your Ground’ law led to a 20% increase in gun homicides – so it’s even more repulsive that instead of repealing this deadly law, some of our lawmakers want to expand it even further” said Red Devitt, a New Orleans leader with the Louisiana Chapter of Moms Demand Action, the nation’s largest gun violence prevention organization. “Emboldening people to shoot first and ask questions later is bad enough, but allowing someone to murder another person over property damage is beyond the pale. Taking a life should always be a last resort. This reckless expansion to an already dangerous law is a clear attempt to make protests and demonstrations more dangerous for advocates practicing their First Amendment rights.”