In early 2017, in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, Standing Rock, and widespread anti-Trump rallies, Republicans introduced over 40 anti-protest bills in 29 states – most in the name of public security.
Eight of the bills became law. Among them were bills that restricted certain types of protest (e.g. wearing masks), increased penalties on protesters, or gave elected officials more powers to block protests. Lawmakers have slowly been criminalizing dissent for years. These bills are hastening the process in Oklahoma, Tennessee, North Carolina and the Dakotas.
Fortunately, many bills were defeated, but these too showed a disturbing trend. Beginning in North Dakota as a response to the water protectors of Standing Rock, seven bills indemnified motorists from civil and criminal liability if they struck a protester with their vehicle.
Most of the bills were in committee on August 12, 2017, when a 20 year-old Kentucky man, James Fields Jr., drove his grey 2010 Dodge Challenger into an anti-racism protest countering the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.