California leaders will hold public hearings to discuss whether there are enough laws to protect demonstrators from violence during public rallies.
State Senate President Pro Tem, Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), announced a series of public hearings this week by the Senate Public Safety Committee, Judiciary Committee, and Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management.
The hearings are the state's response to the violent Charlottesville, Va. events, where 32-year-old, Heather Heyer, lost her life after a car rammed into a crowd of protestors during a white supremacist rally.
California lawmakers want to make sure the state is prepared to protect public safety and free speech in the event of future white supremacist activities.
Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) also introduced SB 630, which would expand hate crime laws in California to cover individuals who are acting in support of, or in defense, of protected groups, whether they fall under the group or not. Skinner additionally presented two Resolutions, SJR 13 and SR 55, urging local, state and federal law enforcement to use all legal options, including those relating to terrorism and hate crimes, to prosecute white nationalist and neo-Nazi crimes.
Skinner, who will hold the public hearings, told ABC10 the agenda for the meetings is not finalized yet. The hearings are still being planned but will likely begin next month.
Skinner said state leaders are aware there has been an increase in alt-right and white supremacist activities.
"Many, not all, but many [white supremacists'] purpose is to incite violence," Skinner said.
The Senator also said, lawmakers want to be sure the current legal tools are "adequate" to enforce public safety and have consequences for violence.
The public hearings will review experiences that have already happened in California, as well as look into concerns such as whether public safety staff is being overwhelmed and if there is proper training in the state for crowd control.
While panelists for the public meetings haven't been secured into a final agenda, Skinner said members from organizations such as University of California, California State University, and California Highway Patrol and other local government agencies are "highly. highly likely" be invited to the public meetings.
The main point of the hearings will be to have the public and lawmakers to come together and discuss how to best uphold free speech while also upholding public safety.
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