Louisiana is about to make attacking a cop a hate crime

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Law enforcement personnel in Louisiana are about to be designated a protected class under hate-crime law, according to a new bill that just passed the state's two legislative bodies with near unanimous approval from lawmakers, and which Governor John Bel Edwards is now expected to sign, according to the Washington Post. The legislation, referred to as the "Blue Lives Matter" bill, would make it a crime to target someone "because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel," punishable with up to five additional years in prison or a maximum fine of $5,000 (for a felony offense). At present, Louisiana already protects minorities from hate crime attacks on the basis of their race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion, but not their chosen occupation.

"Blue Lives Matter" activism has emerged as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and asserts that, as the criticism of, and outrage over police-related deaths, excessive force, and racial profiling have become more mainstream, police officers face increasing levels of discrimination and violence, though as the Post notes, so far evidence of any such rise seems inconclusive at best,and an FBI report that came last week indicated that cops are actually safer than they've been in decades. Nonetheless, proponents of Louisiana HB 953 point to instances in which first responders have been targeted, especially a case in which a sheriff's deputy was randomly executed at a Houston gas station last fall, leading to national outcry from the law enforcement community linking the crime to rhetoric coming from activists like the Black Lives Matter movement — though it's worth noting that the assailant in that case turned out to have a history of mental illness and a few months ago was found incompetent to stand trial for the crime.

Critics of the Louisiana bill include the Anti-Defamation League, which is one of the leading advocates in the country for hate crime legislation. According to CNN, the ADL's regional director, Allison Padilla-Goodman, argued in a press release that the new bill "confuses the purpose of the Hate Crimes Act and weakens its impact by adding more categories of people, who are already better protected under other laws," also noting that "proving the bias intent is very different for these categories than it is for the bias intent of a crime against a law enforcement officer." Padilla-Goodwin has additionally pointed out to the Advocate that Louisiana law already provides the option of extra punishment for crimes that target police, as do 36 other states.

Elsewhere, the New Orleans chapter of the Black Youth Project 100, which works to raise awareness about police brutality, has also rejected the potential law, highlighting how few police officers are killed each year in comparison to the number killed by police violence, and arguing that "we cannot allow the gains of the civil rights movement to be squandered away by police officers scrambling to avoid criticism from their constituents." They call the bill "an insidious attempt to destabilize our First Amendment rights as community members who hold the police, and others sworn by oath to serve and protect, accountable," adding that "Including 'police' as a protected class in hate crime legislation would serve to provide more protection to an institution that is statistically proven to be racist in action, policy, and impact."

A similar bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, by Colorado Republican Ken Buck, which proposes adding law enforcement personnel to the federal hate crime statute, but it has not yet been scheduled for a vote.

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Louisiana is about to make attacking a cop a hate crime
Protesters hold placards against the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in Manhattan, New York, U.S., July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Bria Webb
People take part in a protest against the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile during a march in New York July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
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In this frame grab image made from an Oct. 12, 2014 video released by Chicago Police Department, Ronald Johnson, right, is seen running from police officers just a second before he was shot by an officer. Prosecutors say a Chicago police officer will not be charged in the shooting of the 25-year-old black man who authorities said was armed with a gun as he ran away from officers. (Chicago Police Department via AP)
Matthew White protests the shooting death of Michael Brown by police nearly a week ago Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. A suburban St. Louis police chief on Friday identified the officer whose fatal shooting ignited days of heated protests, and released documents alleging the teen was killed after a robbery in which he was suspected of stealing a box of cigars. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
CORRECTS THE ID OF THE MALE ON POSTER TO TAMIR RICE - Tomiko Shine holds up a picture of Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy fatally shot on Nov. 22 by a rookie police officer, during a protest in response to a grand jury's decision in Ferguson, Mo. to not indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, at the Department of Justice in Washington, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. Protesters across the U.S. have walked off their jobs or away from classes in support of the Ferguson protesters. Rice's death has also sparked community demonstrations against police shootings. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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Muhiydin D'Baha leads a group protesting the shooting death of Walter Scott at city hall in North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Scott was killed by a North Charleston police office after a traffic stop on Saturday. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been charged with murder. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
A protestor carries a casket-shaped sign that reads "Justice for Antonio Zambrano Montes" as she takes part in a protest against recent shootings of unarmed civilians by police Tuesday, April 14, 2015, in Seattle. Zambrano-Montes was shot Feb. 10, 2015, by police in Pasco, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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FILE - This undated photo released by his sister Javille Burns shows Jamar Clark. Clark was involved in a Nov. 15 confrontation with police and died later. Officers said Clark was shot after a struggle. Others say Clark was handcuffed. His death sparked weeks of protests.(Jamar Clark/Javille Burns via AP, File)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06: Demonstrators march through the streets protesting the Staten Island, New York grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in July on December 6, 2014 in New York City. Protests are being staged nationwide after grand juries investigating the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York failed to indict the police officers involved in both incidents. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
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Protestors stand outside of the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station during a march and vigil for Freddie Gray, Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
In this undated photo provided by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, Najee Rivera is shown. Philadelphia Police Office Sean McKnight and Kevin Robinson face brutality charges after prosecutors say they knocked a Rivera off a scooter and beat him so severely another officer thought the bloodied man had been shot. McKnight and Robinson were charged Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015 with assault, criminal conspiracy and reckless endangerment. They're also charged with lying about the May 2013 incident. (AP Photo/Philadelphia District Attorney's Office)
Two men are detained near Pioneer Court on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Chicago. Community activists and labor leaders held a demonstration billed as a "march for justice" in the wake of the release of video showing an officer fatally shooting Laquan McDonald. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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