Legislators Respond to Protests With a Raft of Restrictive Proposals

By Matt Ford

Political protests are often designed to provoke a response from elected officials. But in some states, the reaction from state legislators is turning hostile.

A wave of bills aimed at curtailing protests and demonstrations has started to make its way through state legislatures across the country. A Washington Post analysis found at least 18 states where Republican legislators have either proposed legislation that targets certain protest tactics, sought to increase penalties for illegal protests under existing law, or publicly discussed pursuing such measures.

The proposed measures come amid a revival of disruptive protests. High-profile police shootings led the Black Lives Matter movement to hold dozens of rallies in cities across the country over the past three years. Thousands of Native American activists gathered at Standing Rock, North Dakota, over the past year to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near Sioux lands. (The Obama administration briefly halted construction in response to those protests; the Trump administration reversed that decision last month.) And crowd-size experts estimated last month that the Women’s March on Washington and associated anti-Trump protests nationwide drew between 3.3 million and 4.6 million participants.

Some of the protest-related legislation has stalled in its early stages after public scrutiny. But other proposals, especially those in Republican-dominated state governments, could face an easier road to passage. The Arizona Senate approved one such bill in a party-line 17-13 vote last Wednesday. Senate Bill 1142 makes two key changes to state criminal laws: First, it expands the definition of rioting to include “damage to the property of another person.” Second, it adds rioting to the list of offenses that could fall under racketeering.

State Democratic legislators warned that SB1142’s provisions could theoretically be used in tandem to bring charges against peaceful protesters at a demonstration where other participants use …read more

Via:: The Atlantic


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