Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Ted Budd (R-N.C.) have introduced a proposal that would enable individuals victimized by violent crime in a so-called autonomous zone to sue state and local authorities for compensatory damages.
The measure, called the “Justice for Victims of Lawless Cities Act” (JVLCA), refers to areas such as Seattle’s “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,” in which Antifa-led rioters took over a six-block square of the city’s downtown last month after police abandoned a local precinct station. Authorities retook the area by force on July 1.
“Over its 24-day history, the autonomous zone saw two gun-homicides and four additional shooting victims. All the identified victims were black men—precisely the demographic for whom the CHAZ had claimed to offer protection,” according to City Journal (CJ).
“In the absence of a legitimate police force, armed criminal gangs and untrained anarchist paramilitaries filled the void. Almost every night, gunshots rang through the streets. The first homicide victim was killed in an outburst of gang violence; the second, reportedly unarmed and joyriding in a stolen car, was gunned down by the ‘CHAZ security force,’” CJ stated.
“Lawless autonomous zones have no place in America. Any city or state that tolerates one should be legally on the hook for any tragedies that happen,” Budd said in a statement to introduce the bill.
“This bill would be a strong incentive to local jurisdictions to break up any remaining lawless zones or prevent one from being established in the first place.”
“The United States is a nation of laws. The first order of government is to secure the blessings of liberty. Any state or city that takes federal funds and fails to enforce the laws should both lose those funds and be liable for the harm they have allowed to occur, including those allowing lawless ‘autonomous zones’ to be created,” Roy said in the statement.
“Today, Congressman Budd and I have introduced legislation to do just that and help make sure the streets of America can be safe again,” the Texas Republican said.
Their bill creates a private right of action, whereby “any individual, or a spouse, parent, or child of such individual (if the individual is deceased or permanently incapacitated), who is the victim of a murder, rape, or any felony (as defined by the state), which occurred in a lawless jurisdiction may bring an action for compensatory damages against a state or a political subdivision of a state in the appropriate federal or state court.”
The JVLCA also requires that states or local jurisdictions accepting a wide variety of federal assistance must agree to waive immunity to litigation brought under the private right of action.
The proposal’s provisions also enable the owners of businesses damaged in an autonomous zone to seek compensatory damages. There is a 10-year statute of limitations for litigation authorized by the bill.
Under normal circumstances, the JVLCA’s chances of becoming law in the 116th Congress are remote because Democrats control the House of Representatives and Democratic leaders almost certainly wouldn’t let the proposal advance in the legislative process.
But 2020 is an election year and House Republicans can be expected to focus as much attention as possible on the proposal in order to portray Democrats as uncaring about victims of the recent wave of riots that have struck the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s May 25 killing by a Minneapolis police officer.
A knowledgeable House Republican aide, who asked not to be identified, told The Epoch Times that GOP representatives “are looking at forcing votes on these issues, so as to clarify the positions of each side.”
Among the ways that could be accomplished in the coming months, besides media appearances and floor speeches in Congress, are moving to schedule hearings on the proposal in the House Judiciary Committee and circulating a discharge petition that could force the bill to the House floor.
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc