The litany of reasons
behind the introduction of the anti-protest bills in various states is laughable to absurd, and according to critics, none of them would stand up in court because they are a direct attack on people's first amendment rights.
In Minnesota, sponsors argue the legislation is necessary to protect the public's safety on highways, while in Oklahoma and South Dakota, the bills are intended to stop protests against oil pipelines. So far, none of the bills have passed into law and actually, a number of them have been shelved, which is where all these bills should end up.
In Iowa, protesters who block highways could be charged with a felony and serve five years in prison
if convicted under Senate File 111, introduced in response to an incident in November when more than 100 protesters blocked Interstate Highway 80 in Iowa City, said Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, the bill's lead sponsor. This bill has nine GOP co-sponsors.
Arizona is proposing the scariest legislation against protesters
Expanding on Trump's claim that professional or paid protesters are behind all the protests going on since his election, Arizona GOP lawmakers
have proposed legislation that would open up protesters to being prosecuted using anti-racketeering laws, the same ones used to prosecute organized crime syndicates.
This law, Senate Bill 1142, if passed would be unconstitutional because it gives greatly expanded powers to police to arrest "anyone who is involved in a peaceful demonstration that may turn bad — even before anything actually happened." This bill has already passed the Arizona Senate, along party line votes and now goes before the House.
However, many Democratic lawmakers are working to block this kind of legislation, particularly because in most states, it is already against the law to block traffic, period. But many also express the fear these unconstitutional laws would have a chilling effect all across the political spectrum and put protesters' safety at risk.
The infringement on the First Amendment rights to free speech
Lee Rowland, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has this to say about this kind of legislation: “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."
And Douglas McAdam, a Stanford sociology professor who studies protest movements, points out that this is not the first time in American history that politics have fueled legislative backlashes. In an email to the Washington Post
, McAdams wrote:
"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."
Just so everyone knows what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution really says:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances