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Louisiana could be the first state where targeting police is a hate crime

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The Washington Post

In many states, extra punishment is meted out to those who commit crimes against others because of their race or religion. Such hate-crime laws elevate the heinousness of crimes in which people are targeted because of their identity, their belonging to a group.

While hate-crime laws often refer to ethnicity or disability or gender, Louisiana is about to do something different. The state is poised to become the first in the nation where public-safety personnel will be a protected class under hate-crime law - a move that comes amid a simmering national debate about police shootings and whether that debate has given rise to an anti-law-enforcement climate.

The Louisiana legislation has been referred to as "Blue Lives Matter" - a phrase popularized in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, which exploded following the fatal 2014 police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo.

Black Lives Matter activists have protested what they deem as excessive force by police, and they have called attention to specific instances in which police shot unarmed civilians.

But those who respond with "Blue Lives Matter" argue it's officers who are under assault - that criticism of police fosters animosity toward law enforcement.

Louisiana House Bill 953 faced little opposition from lawmakers; the House passed it 91 -0, and the state Senate approved it 33-3. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).

Some states have floated proposals similar to the Louisiana legislation, and a bill proposed in Congress would amend federal hate-crime law to include officers as a protected class.

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