It’s not just Sen. Warren: Republicans also want regular citizens to sit down and shut up
The GOP much prefers if citizens just accept whatever the GOP does, but if citizens insist on speaking up, the GOP is ready to jail them. Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post on bills in at least 18 states to curb protests (exercising the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances). The GOP was never all that big on the Constitution and in particular the Bill of Rights (except the Second Amendment) and by now the Fourth Amendment is just a tattered, frail remnant of what it once was.
Since the election of President Trump, Republican lawmakers in at least 18 states have introduced or voted on legislation to curb mass protests in what civil liberties experts are calling “an attack on protest rights throughout the states.”
From Virginia to Washington state, legislators have introduced bills that would increase punishments for blocking highways, ban the use of masks during protests, indemnify drivers who strike protesters with their cars and, in at least once case, seize the assets of people involved in protests that later turn violent. The proposals come after a string of mass protest movements in the past few years, covering everything from police shootings of unarmed black men to the Dakota Access Pipeline to the inauguration of Trump.
Some are introducing bills because they say they’re necessary to counter the actions of “paid” or “professional” protesters who set out to intimidate or disrupt, a common accusation that experts agree is largely overstated. “You now have a situation where you have full-time, quasi-professional agent-provocateurs that attempt to create public disorder,” said Republican state senator John Kavanagh of Arizona in support of a measure there that would bring racketeering charges against some protesters.
Others, like the sponsors of a bill in Minnesota, say the measures are necessary to protect public safety on highways. Still other bills, in states like Oklahoma and South Dakota, are intended to discourage protesting related to oil pipelines.
Democrats in many of these states are fighting the legislation. They cite existing laws that already make it a crime to block traffic, the possibility of a chilling effect on protests across the political spectrum, and concerns for protesters’ safety in the face of aggressive motorists.
None of the proposed legislation has yet been passed into law, and several bills have already been shelved in committee.
Critics doubt whether many of the laws would pass Constitutional muster. “The Supreme Court has gone out of its way on multiple occasions to point out that streets, sidewalks and public parks are places where [First Amendment] protections are at their most robust,” said Lee Rowland, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.
This is by no means the first time in American history that widespread protests have inspired a legislative backlash, says Douglas McAdam, a Stanford sociology professor who studies protest movements. “For instance, southern legislatures — especially in the Deep South — responded to the Montgomery Bus Boycott (and the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education) with dozens and dozens of new bills outlawing civil rights groups, limiting the rights of assembly, etc. all in an effort to make civil rights organizing more difficult,” he said via email.
“Similarly,” he added, “laws designed to limit or outlaw labor organizing or limit labor rights were common in the late 19th/early 20th century.”
The ACLU’s Rowland says the new bills are not about “creating new rules that are necessary because of some gap in the law.” She points out, for instance, that “every single city and county in the United States” already has laws on the books against obstructing traffic on busy roads.
Rather, Rowland says the laws’ intent is “increasing the penalties for protest-related activity to the point that it results in self-censorship among protesters who have every intention to obey the law.”
Even the accusations of “paid” or “professional” agitators, which Trump has promoted, have been leveled at protesters before.
“This is standard operating procedure for movement opponents,” Stanford’s McAdam said. “Civil rights workers were said to be ‘outside agitators, and the tea party was dismissed as an ‘AstroTurf’ phenomenon — funded from on high by the Koch brothers and others — rather than a legitimate ‘grass roots’ movement. In all these cases, including the present, the charges are generally bogus, with the vast majority of protesters principled individuals motivated by the force of deeply held values and strong emotion.”
But now, social media has made it possible to organize larger protests more rapidly than ever before. . .
Continue reading. Video at the link along with a state-by-state review.