Red States ready to roll on anti-protest legislation

Earlier this week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis “signed a law that he called the “strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement measure in the country.” The law was written in response to protests around the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.”

But, Florida is not the only red state poised to pass anti-protest legislation:

  • Republicans in  Oklahoma and Iowa have passed bills granting immunity to drivers whose vehicles strike and injure protesters in public streets.
  • Republican legislation in Indiana would bar anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from holding state employment, including elected office.
  • A Minnesota bill would prohibit those convicted of unlawful protesting from receiving student loans, unemployment benefits or housing assistance.
  • Arkansas and Kansas legislation targets protesters who seek to disrupt oil pipelines.

Altogether, G.O.P. lawmakers in 34 states have introduced 81 anti-protest bills during the 2021 legislative session — more than twice as many proposals as in any other year, according to Elly Page, a senior legal adviser at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, which tracks legislation limiting the right to protest.

Even though Republicans have label their new move towards fascism as “anti-riot” bills, rioting, looting, vandalism, and causing mayhem is already illegal in all states. The intent of these new bills focus on silencing people and preventing them from demonstrating against racial injustice.

“This is consistent with the general trend of legislators’ responding to powerful and persuasive protests by seeking to silence them rather than engaging with the message of the protests,” said Vera Eidelman, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union. “If anything, the lesson from the last year, and decades, is not that we need to give more tools to police and prosecutors, it’s that they abuse the tools they already have.”

Throughout the last year of continuous civil unrest in cities across the country, the Washington Post found that the majority of Black Lives Matter protests remained peaceful. The Post also found that ‘when there was violence, very often police or counterprotesters were reportedly directing it at the protesters.’

More than likely, many of these bills will be tied up in court because they clearly violate the rights of “lawful assembly and free speech protected under the First Amendment.”


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