Since Donald Trump’s election, 19 Republican-led states have introduced new legislation that would seek to criminalize peaceful protests for even the most inane reasons, while allowing for heavier and more brutal police force.
Examples range in severity from “meh” to “OMG”.
In their entirety, human rights investigators warn that these proposed measures (and more sure to follow) set an “alarming and undemocratic” precedent against political activism throughout the entire American populace. Such bills clearly target the type of liberal organizing that saw the #NotMyPresident, #MarchForWomen and similar crowds rise in solidarity against the new Republican agenda.
“From the Black Lives Matter movement, to the environmental and Native American movements in opposition to the Dakota Access oil pipeline, and the Women’s Marches, individuals and organizations across (American) society have mobilized in peaceful protests,” Maina Kiai and David Kaye, independent U.N. experts on freedom of peaceful assembly, said in a statement.
In some states, legislation includes increased penalties and/or jail-time for blocked traffic or if demonstrators have been “lawfully warned to disperse,” despite their right to assemble. In Missouri, some lawmakers want to make it illegal to wear a robe, mask or even a hooded sweatshirt to a protest. Lawmakers in North Carolina want to make it a crime to heckle lawmakers.
In North Dakota – one bill in particular would allow drivers to run over and “accidentally” kill demonstrators. Similarly, in Indiana, conservatives want police to use “any means necessary” to remove activists from a roadway.
“The trend also threatens to jeopardize one of the United States’ constitutional pillars: free speech,” Kiai and Kaye continued. Outside of American policy, the bills would also violate international human rights law, they said.
The right to protest and free speech/assembly is paramount in our American democracy and a fundamental factor to our survivability. It was prevalent at the dawn of the country and remains the key component for the positive charge of speaking truth to power. These laws as pushed by the Republican agenda are an outright attack on everything that supposedly makes America as great as they like to say it is.
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