BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) – The Broome County Legislature is expected to vote on Thursday on a resolution supporters say will protect emergency responders and opponents worry is ripe for abuse.
The resolution, known as the Emergency Responders Act of 2019, would allow law enforcement to arrest anyone who alarms, annoys or threatens emergency responders. This covers paramedics, firefighters and police, among others. Supporters say it’s necessary to keep these people safe.
But opponents, like Andrew Pragracz, claim those protections already exists and worry this will give police an excuse to arrest people who engaged in peaceful protests. “They’re trying to pass a law that makes being annoying illegal,” Pragracz said. “Guess what? Protesting is about being annoying.”
Pragracz spoke before last month’s meeting of the Broome County Legislature, when dozens of protestors disrupted proceedings. Several were arrested and charged after clashing with law enforcement.
Opponents of the resolution have claimed it’s a response to arrests that came out of protests during Binghamton’s Columbus Day Parade earlier this year. Supporters on the Broome County Legislature have denied that, saying the resolution was in the works before those protests.
A similar measure was signed into law in Monroe County this month. The NYCLU has come out against it and the measure could face a legal challenge if it passes.
At last month’s meeting, Legislator Bob Weslar worried about the cost of such a challenge. “Let Monroe County fight that fight because they have the cash to do so and we don’t,” Weslar said. “And, after that fight has been meted out, then we can bring it back to the floor and vote on it.”
Thursday’s meeting of the Broome County Legislature is scheduled for 5:00 P.M.