By Jennifer McLogan

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Nassau County executive has vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed police officers to sue protesters for discrimination.

There’s divided discussion on the streets of Nassau County.

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“Giving police that ability to sue a protester, someone like me, who is out in the streets,” said Myles Hollingsworth, NAACP youth chapter president for Freeport-Roosevelt.

Hollingsworth heard from young people across the nation, calling it “chilling,” about the passing, then veto, of a controversial bill allowing police elevated to first responder status eligible to sue for financial gain when they face discrimination from protesters.

“First responders are sometimes treated as second class citizens, Jennifer,” Nassau PBA board member Thomas O’Reilly told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan. “We feel very hurtful about that. We thought this was a good bill.”

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There were fireworks when the legislation passed last week on a 12-6 vote.

Police unions testified in favor, saying harassment against law enforcement has increased. A dozen human rights groups argued the bill would intimidate people seeking to peacefully protest.

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“I was hoping that the county executive would … take immediate action to veto it,” said Jovanni Ortiz, with the Nassau County police community oversight task force. “I think she’s in a little bit of a tough political spot and therefore decided to seek guidance from the attorney general.”

“This bill was flawed. We got an opinion from the attorney general,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “There are serious constitutional issues.”

She says Nassau code already provides enhanced protections for first responders.

This could open taxpayers to a barrage of lawsuits.

The penalty for discriminating against police would be up to $25,000, five times more than under the current human rights law, or up to $50,000 if the violation occurred during “participation in a riot.”

“We shouldn’t be spit on. We shouldn’t have water thrown on us. We shouldn’t be intimidated and harassed and people blowing smoke in our face,” O’Reilly said.

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The bill’s sponsor, Joshua Lafazan, said he would support the opinions and decisions of James and Curran. A supermajority veto override now seems unlikely.

Jennifer McLogan