Wisconsin committee to vote on bills to punish rioters

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A legislative committee is expected to approve a package of bills designed to crack down on riots.

The Assembly judiciary committee is scheduled to vote on the Republican-authored legislation Thursday. Approval would clear the way for a full Assembly vote.

The bills define a riot as a public disturbance during a gathering of at least three people that includes violence or a threat of immediate violence. Participants in such gatherings, including anyone armed, could be charged with a felony. Anyone who blocks a thoroughfare during a riot could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Rep. John Spiros and Sen. Van Wanggaard introduced the bills in response to riots that followed a police shooting in Milwaukee last year.

Critics charge the legislation could result in the arrests of peaceful protesters.

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