Gov. Matt Bevin has signed the so-called “blue lives matter” bill into law. The legislation gives hate crimes protections to emergency responders and police officers.
The controversial policy drew protests throughout its journey through the legislature this year.
Chanelle Helm, an organizer with Louisville’s Black Lives Matter chapter, said she was disgusted that Bevin signed the bill into law.
“You know what, they hate us,” Helm said. “They hate us so much that they need hate crime protection. So underneath this law now, they get hate crime protection as if anybody’s out here targeting them.”
Bevin’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The bill was first filed by Rep. Kevin Bratcher, a Republican from Louisville, in the wake of the slayings of five Dallas police officers over the summer.
Opponents to the new law say it would intensify charges that often stem from protests.
The policy applies to charges like criminal mischief and rioting in addition to assault, menacing, abuse, unlawful imprisonment, rape and arson.
When the bill was taken up in the state House in February, members of Louisville’s Black Lives Matter group shouted down lawmakers and marched out of the chamber gallery, escorted by state police.
Last week, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund sent a letter to Bevin urging him to veto the measure.
“This bill comes at a moment when our country is in the throes of a national policing crisis,” the letter stated. “Using hate crimes laws that have historically been developed to give protection to people of color from distinct forms of violence motivated by prejudice, including police violence, is a particularly disconnected and non-responsive policy choice.”
The “hate crime” designation gives judges more discretion in denying probation during the sentencing process. Parole boards also have more discretion in denying parole to those convicted of hate crimes.
The new law goes into effect July 1.
Bevin has signed 48 bills into law so far this year.