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AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today held a press conference in Dallas where he announced new legislative proposals to combat riot violence and protect public safety. The Governor was joined for the press conference by House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Senator Kelly Hancock, Representatives Angie Chen Button, Justin Holland, Candy Noble, Matt Shaheen, and members of the Dallas Police Association.

“The Constitution guarantees the right to assemble peacefully, but it does not provide the right to riot, rob, loot, or physically harm anyone or anything,” said Governor Abbott. “Texas will always defend the First Amendment, but we will not tolerate violence, vandalism, and rioting in our communities. Over the past several months, we have seen individuals hijack peaceful protests — causing destruction in our communities and threatening public safety. These legislative proposals are aimed at keeping peaceful protesters, law enforcement, and our communities safe from rioting while protecting Texans’ First Amendment rights.”

The Governor’s legislative proposals include the following:

1. Causing injury or destroying property in a riot: Felony offense and mandatory jail time.

2. Striking a law enforcement officer during a riot: Felony offense and mandatory jail sentence of at least six months.

3. Using lasers to target law enforcement officers: Felony offense and mandatory jail time.

4. Blocking hospital entrances and exits by protestors or rioters: Felony offense and mandatory jail time.

5. Using fireworks at protests and riots: Criminal offense and mandatory jail time.

6. Aiding and abetting riots with funds or organizational assistance: Felony offense and mandatory jail time. This will also give the Office of the Attorney General power to pursue civil penalties against people and organizations.

Individuals charged with any of these offenses must remain in jail until their first court appearance.

At the end of the press conference, the Governor joined state and local leaders to sign the Back the Blue pledge.