July 30, 2021 20:07

State Legislators Crack Down On Right to Protest

Since the day of the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, at least nine states have introduced 14 anti-protest bills, reports The Intercept.  The bills, which vary state by state, contain a dizzying array of provisions that serve to criminalize participation in disruptive protests.

The measures range from barring demonstrators from public benefits or government jobs to offering legal protections to those who shoot or run over protesters. Some of the proposals would allow protesters to be held without bail and criminalize camping. A few bills seek to prevent local governments from defunding police.

ACLU representatives insist the bills have potential to do real harm,  pointing to attempts in multiple states to limit bond for people who have been arrested but not yet convicted of a protest-related crime and civil liberties advocates worry that bills moving in the wake of the Capitol insurrection may find a broader range of targets once enacted.

In other states, bills would expand the definition of conduct that would justify use of force from bystanders against demonstrators, including things perceived as “threatening” behavior. Among these provisions, some states’ proposals would strengthen “stand your ground” laws — allowing deadly force — should a person be confronted by a “mob” or riot, including in New Hampshire; other provisions, such as in Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Florida, would protect a driver who, fleeing a riot, injures or kills someone.

In particular, several states are seeing multiple anti-protest bills at once: Indiana has seen four bills introduced since January 1. As Katie Blair, advocacy and public policy director at the ACLU of Indiana, put it, “They’re all different frankensteins.”

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