Americans’ Right to Protest is in
Grave Danger Under Trump, United
By Amanda Erickson
April 02, 2017 "Information
- The right to protest is
fundamental to American democracy.
The country was born, after all, out
of decades of civil disobedience by
people angry about taxation without
representation. (In Washington, FWIW,
we are still angry.)
according to United Nations human
rights investigators, this very
basic principle is under attack.
Over the past few months, on the
heels of a fresh wave of organizing
by liberals, at least 19 states have
introduced measures that would
criminalize peaceful protest. In
places such as Minnesota, Michigan
and Iowa, Republican lawmakers have
proposed laws that would stiffen
penalties for demonstrators who
block traffic. In North Dakota, GOP
leaders are pushing a bill that
would allow motorists to run over
and kill agitators, as long as the
crash was accidental. In Indiana,
conservatives want to
police to use “any means necessary”
to remove activists from a roadway.
Opponents worry this could lead to
more brutal police response.
Colorado lawmakers are considering a
big increase in
penalties for environmental
protesters. Activists who tamper
with oil or gas equipment could be,
under the measure, face felony
charges and be punished with
up to 18 months behind bars and a
fine of up to $100,000. A bill
pending in the Virginia state
legislature would dramatically
increase punishment for people who
“unlawfully” assemble after “having
been lawfully warned to disperse.”
Those who do so could face a year in
jail and a $2,500 fine.
In Missouri, some lawmakers want to make
it illegal to
wear a robe, mask or disguise (remarkably, a
hoodie would count) to a protest. Lawmakers in
North Carolina want to make it a crime to heckle lawmakers.
the United Nations warns,
these bills represent an “alarming and
undemocratic” trend that could have a chilling
effect on activism.
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. These
bills would make that harder.
trend also threatens to jeopardize one of the
United States’ constitutional pillars: free
speech,” the pair wrote. And the bills
violate international human rights law, they
Supporters of the measures argue that the laws
are needed to maintain public safety. The
experts, though, disagreed. “One person’s
decision to resort to violence does not strip
other protesters of their right to freedom of
peaceful assembly,” Kaye and Kiai said.
views expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and do not necessarily reflect the
opinions of Information Clearing House.