Washington, DC — On Thursday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed SB 8005, a bill that imposes a series of criminal penalties and mandatory minimum sentences on those engaged in certain demonstration and protest activity. Under the law, Tennessee protesters face felony conviction and harsher penalties, including loss of the right to vote, for engaging in certain protest activity.
“The racial motivation underlying this law is undeniable. This is a direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement and to those who are resolutely opposed to racial injustice and police violence,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “To criminalize protest activity and disenfranchise voters on top of it defies principles that lie at the heart of our democracy. This is abuse of state power intended to silence voices of dissent from the streets to the ballot box.”
Clarke continued: “Tennessee has worked hard to make it more challenging for voters to participate during the pandemic and this is one further step in their ongoing effort to lock out certain voters this season.”
A copy of the bill signed by Governor Lee, SB 8005, can be found here. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has a long history of challenging discriminatory laws in Tennessee, including a 2019 law that imposed criminal penalties on third party groups engaged in voter registration activity.