Hate crimes

Gov. Cuomo Wants a New Hate Crime Law. Would Police Use It to Suppress Protests?

Enhanced sentences for rioting against a "protected class"? In two states, that now includes law enforcement.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo
William Farrington/Polaris/Newscom

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he wants harsher criminal penalties for rioting, but his proposal could easily blow back on peaceful protesters.

Pointing to last weekend's violence in Virginia, Cuomo is pushing to expand the state's hate crime laws with what he's calling the "Charlottesville provisions." Under the new rules, according to the Auburn Citizen, rioting that targets a protected class would become a more severe felony than it is now, leading to a potential penalty of seven years in prison. Inciting such a riot would jump up from a misdemeanor to a felony, and could now get you up to four years in prison, based on New York State's sentencing guidelines.

As is typical when a politician makes grandstanding announcements about fighting crime, Cuomo sees—or wants you to see—only some of the likely outcomes. He says these laws wil protect marginalized minorities against bigots. He does not discuss the power dynamic that hate crime laws set up. Once you establish a list of protected classes, many different groups will try to get onto it. Right now, law enforcement interests around the country are trying to add police and first responders to the list.

Louisiana and Kentucky have done just that. In Louisiana, one police chief has declared that simply resisting arrest now qualifies as a hate crime.

In that context, consider how law enforcement may view protests against police abuse. Typically, most of these protesters are peaceful, but these actions often end up drawing black-clad people looking to cause trouble. Frequently, the violent activities by that handful of people will prompt police to try to shut down entire protests and arrest those who refuse to disperse, regardless of whether those arrestees had done anything violent. We saw this happen repeatedly in Ferguson, Missouri, in the protests after Mike Brown's shooting. There were peaceful protesters, and there were people who threw rocks and set fires. But the militarized police frequently shut the whole protest down.

We have prominent figures who see even the mildest criticisms of law enforcement as an incitement to attack cops. We have a president who believes the fabricated narrative that our police forces are under assault and who is willing to consider new federal laws to enhance sentences for crimes that target law enforcement. It doesn't take a leap of the imagination to visualize Cuomo's idea being used to stop or at least chill protests against law enforcement misconduct.

Large public protests often target government behavior, whether we're talking the White House or City Hall. The Charlottesville protests started with white nationalists protesting the city's decision to remove a Confederate monument, before it all went downhill. The potential for this law to be used to suppress mass public activism of other sorts is high.

It would be naïve to assume this wouldn't happen. A law proposed to stop attacks on black people would ultimately be used against Black Lives Matter protesters.

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  1. define “riot”

    1. Anything Gov. Cumo doesn’t like.

      1. the ambiguity adds to the fun.

  2. Fun fact: protected classes in NY include “bus driver” and “subway conductor”.

    1. Just anyone drawing a government paycheck.

  3. what he’s calling the “Charlottesville provisions.”

    He originally called it “Charlotte’s Law” until an aide pulled him aside and whispered something in his ear.

    On Monday, he signed legislation that adds community centers to the list of public places where people who commit certain crimes, including making a false bomb threat, can face stiffer penalties.

    FFS what a control freak.

  4. Cuomo is a dictator. We should ship his ass to Venezuela.

    1. They wouldn’t want him

  5. More to the point, will NYPD use the new law to deliberately ambush protesters they disagree with and charge them for the resulting forced conflict, as they did in Charlottesville?

    1. there is video shown on Tv that shows the police forcing some neo nazis back into the antifa which gave them no choice but to fight.

  6. I’m waiting for the eventual slip-up of “protected caste”.

  7. “”””rioting that targets a protected class would become a more severe felony than it is now, “””

    And rioting that targets unprotected class would not be a crime.

  8. what happens when they run out of statues?

  9. cops are a protected class

  10. “It would be na?ve to assume this wouldn’t happen.”

    Actually, it’s cute that you think it would ever be used against their thugs. How many antifa have ever been arrested for their numerous riots? The only ones that I can think of were the ones who rioted in DC during the inauguration.

    Here’s a better argument: don’t criminalize speech and assembly. A little less virtue signaling goes a long way

    1. Except that argument is never going to work on people who explicitly want to criminalize speech and assembly. You don’t need to make arguments to the people who already agree with you. It seems like you want Reason only to preach to the choir when it comes to free speech. I think we already know the principled, rights based arguments for freedom of speech and assembly and don’t need them rehashed in every single article on the subject. To do so would just be another form of pointless virtue signalling, but aimed at libertarians rather than at people who don’t already agree.

      1. Or, how about Reason just tells me what I want to hear?

    2. And it now appears many of them are actually innocent:

  11. “Once you establish a list of protected classes, many different groups will try to get onto it.”

    The reason ‘may different groups will try to get into it’ is because they feel alienated when they aren’t. Real or imagined, when you treat one group different than another, you give the impression that you value one over the other. And, protecting more groups will only make the problem worse. Unless of course, you include every conceivable group in the ‘protected class’. Which sounds an awful lot like the 14th amendment.

    1. Well said.

      However, this (since rioting that targets a protected class would become a more severe felony than it is now) would lead to *lots* of more-severe felony prosecuti….oh. OHHHH!

  12. It seems the majority is the group that needs equal protection of the law.

  13. So he is saying that Charlottesville should have locked up all members of the conspiracy to violate the free speech rights of the group with the actual permit to assemble? You know, arrest all those masked thugs without a permit?

    Or maybe does he mean the peaceful protesters with a permit, but that he disagrees with?

  14. but his proposal could easily blow back on peaceful protesters.

    Feature. Lefties believe wholeheartedly in thought-crime.

  15. Next up-he will make it a hate crime to try to move out of NY State and deprive the protected classes of government workers their tax revenue.

    1. Shhhh! Stop giving him ideas!

  16. rioting that targets a protected class would become a more severe felony

    Fortunately, most rioting seems to target the hood’s drug and liquor stores.

  17. And the government gets more and more powerful.

    Never let a incident go to waste, says any politician.

  18. rioting that targets a protected class would become a more severe felony than it is now So, if a gang of gay Nazi skinheads (yes, there are such creatures) is attacked by a bunch of antifa lesbians, who gets thrown in jail? The possibilities are endless, but you’re going to need a scorecard to figure out which groups can attack which, and which groups have to take it.

  19. So black and queer people can riot and we can not react? Sounds good to me. When there are no more middle class people in the state it will be fascinating to watch.

  20. Between him and Bloomberg you now have hate and weight crimes.

  21. Why not just make harsher penalties for rioting that targets “any ethnic group” if you must go that route? Surely it sucks just as bad to be a “majority” when you are outnumbered 10 to one and getting stomped on.

    Unless of course the real goal here is to find roundabout ways to criminalize hate speech.

  22. “Suppress Protests?”
    Better would be to use it to impeach the Governor.

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