On Friday, Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana introduced a controversial new bill to the House of Representatives that would hold people convicted of rioting and looting financially responsible for additional policing. The Republican congressman dropped hot-button phrases like "AntiFa" while unveiling the Support Peaceful Protest Act. The bill would also exclude those convicted of these crimes from receiving the federal unemployment aid provided by the CARES Act.
"Antifa thugs are descending on suffering communities, disrupting peaceful protests and leaving violence, looting and vandalism in their wake," Banks claimed while introducing his new legislation. The bill would pertain to those convicted of looting and rioting at a federal level and would target the emergency aid they might be getting during the coronavirus pandemic. It would also make them financially responsible for the cost of law enforcement "in an amount that is equal to the cost of such policing activity."
"Due to enhanced federal benefits, taxpayers are giving wages to jobless rioters that are destroying our communities," Banks added. "We need to cut them off from their funding and make them feel the full financial consequences of their actions."
So far, it is not clear how much support Banks' bill has in the House, where Banks is in the minority party. In promoting his bill on social media, Banks has alluded to conspiracy theories such as the antisemitic belief that most protesters are actors paid by Jewish philanthropist George Soros for some kind of social architecture scheme.
Banks also appeared on Fox & Friends on Sunday to discuss the new bill, saying that those convicted of rioting and looting "shouldn't receive" enhanced unemployment insurance "any longer." Banks repeatedly implied that the protesters are still getting the $600 per week unemployment check, which expired on July 31.
In fact, the rest of Washington, D.C. is preoccupied with negotiating the next stimulus bill, with unemployment checks serving as one of the main points of contention between the two parties. Banks said that "these people will think twice about the type of activities that they're engaged with on a nightly basis if we take away their extra $600 a week," but all of the protest activity he is talking about took place after July 31.
Contrary to what Banks has said, the protests around the U.S. have been largely peaceful over the last three months, though accounts of looting have garnered the most attention on social media. Protesters are calling for extreme police reform or police abolition on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement, making Banks' proposed punishment of paying for increased policing especially harsh.