Claim: A number of states have or are in the process of passing laws that criminalize protests.
In response to some protests that have turned into riots, the lawmakers in at least 18 states have proposed legislation. The list includes states such as Arizona, Indiana, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Tennessee. While these proposals have not become law, civil liberties advocates are reporting that they represent an attempt to criminalize protected free speech.
Some of these bills are designed to add additional requirements to legal protests. Others have the potential to be more intrusive such as Arizona’s law to seize the property of those who participate or organize violent protests. The following table shows some of the laws being considered at the time of this article’s writing.
|Arizona||Adds rioting to the state’s racketeering statutes. This would allow the state to seize property of those who organize and participate in protests where violence occurs even if the rioting groups are not part of the protests.|
|South Dakota||Allows law enforcement to designate “safety zones” in areas where there are active protests. Supporters of the bill say that the intention is for safety. Opponents to the law claim that the law can be used to shut down protests by make it impossible to avoid breaching the zones.|
|Tennessee||Eliminates civil liability for drivers who run into protesters who are blocking traffic.|
|Minnesota||Authorizes cities to charge protesters for police services if the demonstrators are convicted of illegal assembly or public nuisance giving them the ability to sue the protesters.|
|Washington||Classifies protests as a felony called “economic terrorism” if it resulted in economic disruption or endangers human life or property.|
|Michigan||Makes it easier for courts to shut down protests and pickets and to penalize demonstrators for blocking entrances to businesses, private residences, or roadways. Add fines for protesters who return to a protest after the court deems it illegal.|
|Iowa||Makes it a felony to block traffic on highways during a protest.|
|North Dakota||Clears drivers of any legal liability for running over protesters as long as the action is unintentional.|
|Indiana||Allows for police to clear protesters using “any means necessary” if roads are being blocked. Opponents claim that this law could allow for law enforcement to use brutal tactics against protesters.|
|Virginia||Imposes jail time for protesters who remain at an unlawful assembly or riot after being ordered to leave. This bill has been defeated.|
|Colorado||Increases the penalties for tampering with oil and gas production equipment to be a felony.|
These laws are in response to a growing number of protests that have ended in clashes with law enforcement and property damage. Despite the timing of these bills, they were not prompted by protests against president Donald Trump; they were proposed before the election. Civil liberties advocates warn against rushing legislation as it could backfire. Many of them call efforts to curtail protests troubling and un-American.
As previously discussed, there are a number of states that are considering legislation that would further regulate protests. Most of these laws are intended to address safety issues and riots. On the other hand, some of these laws have the potential to be abused to effectively shut down peaceful protests. One can make an argument for or against these laws and for that reason, this claim is debatable.
References and Further Reading:
- We the Sheeple
- UPDATE: LAWMAKERS IN TEN STATES HAVE PROPOSED LEGISLATION CRIMINALIZING PEACEFUL PROTEST
- State laws criminalizing protest are a terrible idea
- Arizona bill on protests, riots and racketeering: What you need to know
- Arizona May Criminalize Involvement in Protests at Which Violence or Vandalism Occur
- Senate backs governor’s wish for more powers to push back on protests
- Bill would make drivers immune from civil liability in protests
- Bill to crack down on Minnesota protesters appears to be national trend
- Washington Republican proposes charging protestors with ‘economic terrorism’
- GOP House approves big fines for ‘mass picketing’
- Iowa bill: 5 years in prison for highway protesters
- In North Dakota, it could become legal to hit a protester with your car
- Republican lawmaker targets Indiana protesters obstructing traffic
- Va. Senate rejects bill to increase penalties for remaining at unlawful protest
- Fake news alert: Bloggers claim protesters can now be labeled terrorists under new law
- Obama Criminalize Free Speech?
- GOP senator to propose bill criminalizing “illegal protests”