Anti-protest bills

No, It’s Not Okay To Hit Protesters With Your Car

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.

University of Wisconsin Regents Walked Away From the Challenge of Democracy

On October 6th, the University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents, mostly appointees of Governor Scott Walker, approved the ‘Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression’ policy. If a student is charged with “disorderly conduct” or “disruption of freedom of expression” two times, they will be suspended. Three times and they’ll be expelled.

Wisconsin campuses do not have a big enough problem - presumably protests drowning out other protests or speakers – to warrant this measure. The Regents, stewards of 26 institutions of higher education, are buying into a conservative fad and pandering to Governor Scott who can’t muster the energy to pass similar limitations in Madison.

Free Assembly on the Minnesota Governor’s Desk, and at a Crossroads

With the passage of an amended public safety bill last Monday, the Minnesota House of Representatives have thrust the Gopher State to the fore of a national pandemic of bills attacking our human right to freedom of peaceful assembly. By last count, Republicans in 19 states have proposed 28 anti-protest bills, some indemnifying motorists who strike protesters with their cars, others applying anti-racketeering laws to protest organizers.

In Minnesota, this charge has been lead by Representative Nick Zerwas of Elk River, who has fashioned himself an authority on how and where first amendment rights are “legal”. Due to the partisan recklessness of Rep. Zerwas and his colleagues in Saint Paul, Minnesota has the dubious distinction of pushing some of those 28 anti-protest bills farthest down the field. By vetoing these bills, Governor Mark Dayton can also stop this nationwide momentum against peaceful assembly.