Peaceful Protest Could Be Criminalized in Several U.S. States | Sojourners

Peaceful Protest Could Be Criminalized in Several U.S. States

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Bills criminalizing peaceful protest have been introduced to state legislatures in five U.S. states, reports The Intercept. The five states are Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Washington. The bills have been proposed by Republican lawmakers.

The bills proposed in Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota aim to affect highway protests. The bill introduced in North Dakota, if passed, would mean motorists would not be held liable for "negligently caus[ing] injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway."

The bill introduced in Washington would enforces special penalties on activities ruled to be “economic terrorism.” The bill introduced in Michigan would have enabled businesses to sue specific protesters with greater ease and increases penalties for protesters. However, that bill was later shelved.

From The Intercept:

“This trend of anti-protest legislation dressed up as ‘obstruction’ bills is deeply troubling,” said Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney of 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.”

... “I think that the motivations for the Republican legislators proposing bills to penalize protests are to cater to the general public hostility towards Black Lives Matter in the overwhelmingly white suburban and rural districts they represent,” said Jordan S. Kushner, a civil rights attorney in Minneapolis who represented Black Lives Matter protesters. “The goal is to criminalize protesting to a greater degree and thereby discourage public dissent.”


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