ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A downtown protest and a public hearing couldn’t prevent the controversial police harassment bill.
Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo signed the bill into law Monday.
Hours before Dinolfo signed the bill, protesters gathered outside the Monroe County Office Building in Rochester to voice their opposition to the controversial bill, which was the subject of a public hearing following the demonstration.
The bill passed in the Republican-led county legislature 17-10, and current county executive Cheryl Dinolfo says she plans to sign the bill into law.
At the public hearing, 24 community members spoke out. Ranging from local officials, to activist group members, to lawyers — and many of them used their allotted two minutes to say they were offended that neither Dinolfo, nor any Republican county legislators came to the hearing.
Protesters outside the county office building argued the bill’s language is vague, and unconstitutional. The bill says that “harassment” can be anything from annoying a first responder to assault one. Punishments include jail time and up to a $5,000 fine.
Republicans who drafted the bill say it’s designed to protect first responders and they say law enforcement officers will have the discretion to decide to use it or not.
“The intent of the law is that the first responders, those that are protecting our community, making sure that the 750,000 people here all well-protected,” Dinolfo said.
Opponents say the bill is concerning, and racist
“It is unconstitutional, it is racist, and trample on the first amendment,” said Rev. Lewis Stewart of United Christian Leadership Ministry. “The law is vague and gives authority to police, to subjectively determine that which is annoying or alarming.”
“We feel it’s a direct attack against already over-police brown and black communities,” said Ashley Gantt, a statewide organizer for ACLU.
Rochester City Councilman Willie Lightfood said that City Council is working on a letter to Dinolfo that will express their opposition to the bill, a bill that Democrats say will be challenged in court.