LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It's unusual for a state representative to find herself on the other side of the law. It may be even less frequent that a state representative inspires her colleague to file a bill bearing her name, "Attica's Law."
What You Need To Know
- State Rep. Lisa Willner plans to file bill to change rioting law
- Bill inspired after arrest of State Rep. Attica Scott last week
- Willner says current laws are unclear and unfair
- Scott faces felony first-degree rioting charge
That's what State Rep. Lisa Willner (D, District 35) intends to do. She is inspired to rewrite the rioting statute, due to the arrest of fellow State Rep. Attica Scott (D, District 41). Scott faces a felony first-degree rioting charge after protesting for justice for Breonna Taylor last week.
Scott live-streamed some of the moments before her arrest over social media last Thursday.
"They're setting us up!" she said of the police, explaining they had blocked her group of protesters from proceeding to the First Unitarian Church, where people were seeking refuge. She was arrested and bonded out of jail the next morning. Her teenage daughter was also with her.
"I woke up Sunday morning shaking," Scott explained of the event. She is fighting the charges.
"[Police] wouldn't even let us get across the street before curfew here to sanctuary at the church," Scott told Spectrum News 1, standing inside the very church she attempted to enter last week. Scott claims she is being blamed for damage to the Main Library near the church. She says she was not part of a group that did the damage and threw a flare into a window. Further, she says she was on the opposite side of the building from where that activity was happening.
While not addressing Scott specifically, Louisville Police Interim Chief Robert Schroeder said in a news conference the following day that those with a group of people characterized as rioters were arrested due to a Kentucky statute that allows people of a group, even if not personally committing a violent act, be arrested as part of it.
"Several people were arrested in front of the church, charging them with unlawful assembly, failure to disperse, and first-degree rioting. Because of the damage being assessed at the library, police kept the area secure while inspections and attempts at repairs were ongoing. Under Kentucky's riot statute, anyone who is part of a group causing damage or riotous behavior is subject to the charge of rioting. It does not require an individual to actually have participated in the specific destructive act," said Schroeder.
Now, Willner is willing to change that rule on the books. She says it's unclear and unfair.
"Simply being present, being part of a group, where maybe somebody, maybe 100 people away or on the other side of the block who you've never seen before, is engaging in rioting and destructive behavior and damaging property, inciting violence ... to just be part of the same group is not the same level of offense," said Willner.
Willner wants to be clear, her filing this bill is not a favor for a friend. It won't be able to help Scott or the dozen of people arrested with her in time. Scott is due in court Tuesday. She insists this is about helping others.
"This is not specifically about Representative Scott. It is about every single person who may have been charged with rioting in the first degree, charged with a felony for simply being present, for simply exercising their constitutional rights," she continued.
Willner is a member of the very church where protesters were claiming sanctuary from police amid protests. She says her future legislation "is not about condoning violence."
Scott is committed to continuing the calls for social justice.
"I was shaking, but I'm not shaken. My resolve is still here to continue to fight for justice for Breonna Taylor," she said.
If convicted of felony rioting, consequences range, possibly including some prison time or even a reduction of rights.
"We're advocates of voting rights, and yet with this felony, if convicted, we could lose our voting rights," Scott reflected.