LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A state lawmaker said she will propose changing Kentucky’s legal definition of rioting after Democratic state Rep. Attica Scott was charged with the felony while participating in Louisville protests for racial justice.
Kentucky state Rep. Lisa Willner, a Louisville Democrat, said she plans to file a new bill request Monday that would redefine the criminal charge, news outlets reported. Willner announced the move Sunday during a news conference at Jefferson Square Park, the hub of protests during months of demonstrations in the city.
Scott, the state’s only Black woman representative, was arrested and charged Thursday night with first-degree rioting, unlawful assembly and failure to disperse.
Police said Scott was in a group that disobeyed orders to disperse, and that members of the group damaged buildings and set fire to a library.
Scott has called the charges “ludicrous” and said she would never be involved in setting fire to a library. She said she was arrested by officers who surrounded her as she walked with her daughter to the sanctuary of a church.
Kentucky law defines a riot as a public disturbance involving five or more people “which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function.”
The law defines first-degree rioting as knowingly participating in a riot that causes injury to a person who is not rioting, or causes substantial property damage.
Scott said she and her daughter had joined protesters gathered downtown Thursday evening and they were driving to a church that offered refuge to people who would otherwise be caught on the street in violation of a curfew. Police blocked their route, so they parked and walked to the church instead. Officers then converged on them to make arrests before the curfew took effect, Scott said.
“LMPD swarmed us,” Scott said. “They started yelling, ‘Circle ‘em, circle ‘em.’ They wouldn’t let us leave to go back to our vehicle. And they wouldn’t let us literally cross the street to get to the church and sanctuary.”
Willner said what happened to Scott while she was seeking sanctuary “cannot happen again.”