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Monroe County Executive signs measure dubbed 'harassment bill,' 'annoyance law'

WHECTV
Updated: December 02, 2019 10:34 PM
Created: December 02, 2019 05:41 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Community activists are threatening lawsuits and promising more protests over a new county law to protect first responders from behavior that is considered annoying or harassing.

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo signed the measure on Monday after a day of angry protest.

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Critics, including some lawyers, say the new county law will end up in court, and the county will have to spend money defending it, and they say it will be overturned.

Activists demonstrated at the Monroe County Office Building on Monday and spoke out in a public hearing by the County Legislature.

The bill passed last month, and makes it a crime punishable by fines and/or jail time to threaten, harass or annoy police officers or emergency responders.

Ashley Gantt of the New York Civil Liberties Union said there will be further protests.

"If this does go into law, we will be protesting,” Gantt said. “We will be shutting down every single county legislative meeting that we can.

We will be protesting outside of the county legislative building every single day."

Former RIT President Bill Destler called the law unconstitutional, a statement Lewis Stewart of the United Christian Leadership Ministry made as well. Stewart also called the law racist.

Myra Brown of Spiritus Christi Church agreed.

"The latitude given is akin to Jim Crowe era rationalization for arrests and criminalization," Brown said.

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said the measure is about supporting first responders.

"It's important that we support the men and women who go out and do the work every single day to make sure that the public is protected and the community is strengthened," Dinolfo said.

Critics of the plan criticized Dinolfo for not being at today's hearing before she signed the measure and the Legislature for scheduling it during the day when many people are at work.

The National Press Photographers Association sent a letter to Dinolfo and the Monroe County Legislature last week, raising concerns that the law would violate the first amendment.


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