Republican lawmakers in eight states are looking to tack on stiffer penalties for unlawful demonstrators and better protections for drivers who feel threatened when blocked on a major thoroughfare and “unintentionally” run over protesters.
The Washington Post reports:
In Washington state, a lawmaker termed some protests “economic terrorism” and introduced a bill that would permit judges to tack on an additional year in jail to a sentence if the protester was “attempting to or causing an economic disruption.”
In Minnesota, a person convicted of participating or being present at “an unlawful assembly” could be held liable for costs incurred by police and other public agencies.
And in Indiana, a proposed law would direct police encountering a mass traffic obstruction to clear the road by “any means necessary,” echoing a phrase made famous by Malcolm X during the 1960s civil rights movement.
Iowa state Sen. Jake Chapman (R) said, “We’re not trying to restrict people’s right to protest peaceably, ut there’s appropriate places and times. And the interstate is not one of those places. . . . Right now they’re going to get charged with jaywalking and fined $35. That doesn’t fit the crime, in my opinion.”
Chapman introduced his bill after a group of high schoolers blocked one side of Interstate 80 for 30 minutes as part of an anti-Trump demonstration.
More from WaPo:
“In Minnesota,” said state Rep. Nick Zerwas, “blocking freeways and closing down the airport have become the go-to move for the protester class.” His bill would make someone who is convicted of participating or being present at an unlawful assembly “civilly liable for public safety response costs.”
Zerwas pointed to the recent Women’s March, which drew 100,000 people to Minneapolis, as an example of non-intrusive protests without any arrests or closures.
“My point is,” Zerwas said, “you don’t have free speech rights for the middle of the freeway. If you block the freeway, go to jail. And when you get out of jail, you should get a bill for riot.”
After protests at the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota snarled traffic for weeks, Rep. Keith Kempenich introduced a bill that stats any driver “who unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road . . . is not guilty of an offense.”
“The First Amendment works both ways. You’ve got the right to assemble peacefully and legally. The other side of it is other people who don’t want to participate,” Kempenich said. “I just intended it to keep people that didn’t want to be involved in this from being drawn into it.”
As we’ve seen in the recent protests, the fascists are showing up in masks and black clothing to commit crimes. A law in Missouri seeks to make wearing “a robe, mask, or other disguise” illegal.
There have been several stories over the last few years since the eruption of the Ferguson riots where Black Lives Matter protesters blocked freeway and street traffic causing ambulances to be stuck on their way to the hospital with a patient and keeping families trying to travel home with young children hung up for hours.
It’s apparent “protests” are more and more becoming riots and so, a strong message needs to be sent.