DALLAS, Texas -- Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday called for new crimes and mandatory jail time for certain offenses related to protests as he announced legislative proposals about public safety in Texas.
He made his remarks during a press conference at the Dallas Police Association's headquarters.
Abbott laid out these proposals that would turn the following offenses into felonies:
- Causing injury or destroying property in a riot: Will result in jail time.
- Striking a law enforcement officer during a riot: Will result in mandatory minimum jail sentence of at least six months. Offense includes hitting an officer with objects like bricks, bottles and other projectiles.
- Using lasers to target law enforcement: Will lead to jail time.
- Blocking hospital entrances and exits: Will lead to jail time.
Abbott and other state leaders have criticized Texas city officials for recent attempts to lower police spending and use those funds for social services that activists and local officials say could stem systemic racism and crime.
After the Austin City Council cut its police budget in August, Abbott and other Texas Republicans have offered several proposals for drastic legislation to counter local budget decreases — echoing a polarizing national debate about American policing in the 21st century.
Republicans and Democrats often stick to their party lines that pit a fear of rising crime in major cities against calls for racial justice and reforms to police behavior.
Calls to cut police budgets and reform officers' tactics gained renewed momentum this year after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes in May.
Protests demanding such changes have occurred across the nation and in Texas. Two days of unruly protests against police brutality at the Texas Capitol in May left graffiti on the historic building and cuts and bruises on state police officers. The Texas Department of Public Safety spent the summer naming and arresting suspects, the majority of whom are accused of misdemeanors.