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Students' arrest over racial slur prompts review of ridicule law

Free speech advocates say that while the students' comments were offensive, they were not criminal.
Credit: AP
FILE - These 2019 file booking photos provided by the University of Connecticut Police Department show UConn students Jarred Mitchell Karal, left, and Ryan Mucaj, who were arrested in 2019 for shouting a racial slur outside a campus apartment complex. They were charged under a 1917 law that makes it a misdemeanor for anyone who ridicules or holds up to contempt certain classes of people. Professors and groups including the American Civil Liberties Union raised free speech concerns after the arrests. A public hearing is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, on a bill before the state legislature's Judiciary Committee that would repeal the law. (UConn Police Department via AP, File)

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut officials are considering repealing a century-old state law that bans ridiculing people based on race, religion and other factors, because of free speech concerns.

The legislation is in response to the arrests of two University of Connecticut students accused of breaking the 1917 law by saying a racial slur in a campus apartment complex parking lot last fall.

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Free speech advocates say that while the students' comments were offensive, they were not criminal.

The state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities is urging lawmakers to keep the law at a time when hate and bias incidents are increasing.