Republicans Are Trying To Criminalize Peaceful Protest

By Eric Shorey

As the inauguration of Donald Trump unravels, many around the country are planning to protest pretty much every measure the GOP plans to put into place. That's all well and good, but in a patently fascist move, a handful of Republican lawmakers are working on introducing new laws that would make peaceful protest a crime.

According to The Intercept, five states (North Dakota, Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, and Iowa) have introduced controversial laws with the intent of cracking down on protests and protesters. Demonstrators may soon face increased jail time and fines among other dangers. In North Dakota, for example, conservatives are trying to make it legal for drivers to hit (and potentially kill) protesters with their cars — as long as they do so "accidentally." Meanwhile, in Washington State, some are attempting to reclassify protests deemed "economic terrorism" as a felony civil disobedience, thus making it more easily punishable.

The news has alarmed activists and civil rights advocates around the world. Many see this as a violation of the First Amendment.

“This trend of anti-protest legislation dressed up as ‘obstruction’ bills is deeply troubling,” said Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union. “A law that would allow the state to charge a protester $10,000 for stepping in the wrong place, or encourage a driver to get away with manslaughter because the victim was protesting, is about one thing: chilling protest.”

“The statute is very heavily abused by police to charge people with crimes in response to minor resistance to police based on good faith disagreements with what they are doing,” said Jordan S. Kushner, a Minneapolis civil rights attorney who has represented Black Lives Matter protesters. “It is frequently used in response to people who verbally challenge or try to observe/record police at protests.”

“If you stay off the roadway, this would never be an issue,” countered Republican state Rep. Keith Kempenich who co-sponsered North Dakota's aforementioned new bill. “Those motorists are going about the lawful, legal exercise of their right to drive down the road.”

“The goal is to criminalize protesting to a greater degree and thereby discourage public dissent," concluded Kushner.

[Photo: Getty Images]

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