SARASOTA, Fla. -- Political rallies seem to have become more violent over the last year.
State Rep. Joe Gruters from Sarasota has filed a bill to help keep rallies more peaceful by making politically motivated violence a hate crime.
Violence broke out at Berkeley College in California last month ahead of an appearance by a conservative writer.
Gruters says, “It makes me very sad, very disturbed to see anybody be attacked on TV.”
Over and over again in the last year, we’ve seen political rallies turn ugly.
“If you are trying to stifle someone’s ability to support a candidate of their choosing, you should be punished I believe more severely than an assault,” adds Gruters.
That’s why Gruters has filed a bill adding “political affiliations and beliefs” to the list of what is considered a hate crime.
“You have people at home who see attacks on TV and become afraid to attend these events,” says Gruters.
The bill is not just about violence at rallies. Gruters says being attacked for wearing a T-shirt or hat with a political message or candidate’s name would be protected too.
“Hopefully this would be a strong deterrent in preventing extreme radicals from attacking anybody. Both sides, both sides have made mistakes and attacked people then equally should be punished,” explains Gruters.
The penalty for a hate crime raises the offense by one degree a first-degree misdemeanor would become a third-degree felony.
Gruters says, “I’m trying to curb that violence.”
Florida's hate crime law already includes protection against crimes because of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, advanced age and homelessness.
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