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article imageOp-Ed: GOP lawmakers introduce bills to curb protests in 18 states

By Karen Graham     Feb 25, 2017 in Politics
It appears that some GOP lawmakers have gone a bit too far in their attempts at putting a halt to the freedom of people in America to express their views by protesting, and so far, 18 states have either introduced or voted on laws to curb protests.
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.
Violent protests erupted at the University of California at Berkeley over the scheduled appearance o...
Violent protests erupted at the University of California at Berkeley over the scheduled appearance of a controversial editor of the conservative news website Breitbart
Josh Edelson, AFP
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 β€” 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 "March for Life" takes place after millions rallied in women-led protests across the U...
The "March for Life" takes place after millions rallied in women-led protests across the US to warn President Donald Trump not to attack freedoms, including abortion
Joshua LOTT, AFP/File
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: β€œThe 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 β€” especially in the Deep South β€” 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."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about gop lawmakers, laws against peotests, Aclu, Unconstitutional, Blocking traffic
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