State Rep. Allen Treadaway (R-Morris) on Thursday morning interviewed with Talk 99.5’s “Matt & Val Show” regarding his HB 445, which would create new crimes and penalties for individuals who incite or participate in riots.
His interview came the day after State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) took to the Senate floor to lambast the legislation — and those who support it — as wanting to “snatch” up Black Lives Matter protesters and “take us back 60 years.” Smitherman said the legislation was part of a general oppressive movement he compared to the killing of George Floyd.
Treadaway recently retired as Birmingham Police Department assistant chief following a 31-year career on the force; he was on the ground when protesting turned into violent and destructive rioting, looting and arson for one night in the Magic City this past summer. Speaking to co-hosts Matt Murphy and Valerie Vining, Treadaway reiterated his firsthand — and the city’s — experience was the genesis of his bill.
“We all saw what played out across the country last year,” Treadaway said. “And then it came to Birmingham — was actually brought to Birmingham.”
“So, I’m just going to go over some facts for you real quick just to put a backdrop to this thing,” he outlined. “We know for a fact the night before the protest in Birmingham, folks came in and they planted incendiary devices, gasoline, bricks, and somebody’s funding that. So, there’s a very organized effort going on in this country to keep chaos up. And when they did that, the protesters came in, and — for the most part — our local protesters were peaceful.”
The career law enforcement officer noted that this protest was different than the many peaceful ones he had personally experienced beforehand in the city.
“In this instance, the outsiders that came in to the city of Birmingham were hell-bent on destruction. And that’s a fact,” Treadaway remarked. “Approximately 70 people were arrested. But out of that 70 people, probably 1/3 of them were local.”
He added that most of the locals were arrested for “minor offenses like failure to disperse and things like that.”
“But there was an element that was embedded into those protesters that came into the city of Birmingham and started rioting, started inciting a riot,” he continued. “And when that happened, they went to the shrubbery, the plants, that were around these buildings downtown where they had planted these devices. And they used them to try to destroy the city. Sledgehammers, the incendiary devices, gasoline.”
Treadaway stressed that this factual account was the motivation and basis for the bill.
“And the whole race issue that’s been coming up, I want to talk about that for just a second. Because many of the folks that were arrested from out of town were college-age white kids, OK. And the ones that were bashing windows in. So, this is not a race thing,” he stressed. “This is a law and order thing.”
“I knew when I brought the legislation it would be controversial — with some,” he acknowledged. “But I firmly believe that the masses of Americans — black, brown and white — that they don’t want this (rioting) in their city. They don’t want folks hijacking a cause. And they don’t want them hell-bent on trying to destroy and burn down their city.”
The fourth-term legislator from Jefferson County further highlighted that “law enforcement needs more protection.” He shared that an individual from outside the state was behind the jail the night of the rioting “with a sack full of cash.”
“And why is that? We have a $300 cash bond,” Treadaway explained, outlining that the individual was helping others bond out straight back onto the street to rejoin the rioting. His bill would prevent that by instituting a mandatory hold period for those arrested for rioting or inciting a riot.
“You can’t have a situation where we’re trying to put this type of riot down and people are bonding out and coming back in and joining the fray,” he underlined. “It just doesn’t work.”
Murphy then asked if the Birmingham rioting could have easily resulted in much worse property damage and physical bodily harm.
“There’s no doubt about it, we dodged a bullet,” Treadaway responded. “And then there was those who tried to hang around and reignite the situation.”
He praised the police department’s community policing emphasis for warding off a worse outcome.
“We dodged a bullet that day. They tried to reignite that situation,” he reiterated. “And I think we did a really good job in making sure that that did not happen.”
Treadaway shared that Mobile similarly had a problem with out-of-state people traveling to the city “trying to incite riots there.”
“These folks are sharing information with one another, and when there is a legitimate protest — a peaceful protest — being organized, there’s an element now that’s out there — a criminal element — that’s hell-bent on embedding themselves in those type of causes,” he advised. “That’s just a fact. So, the legislation is an attempt to address some of that.”
He subsequently went on to define what participating in or inciting a riot entails pursuant to HB 445, differentiating those activities from peaceful protesting.
“The First Amendment is something I believe in greatly,” Treadaway reaffirmed.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn