Republican state lawmakers have introduced dozens of anti-protest bills in response to last year’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations, including bills that would grant immunity for drivers who run over protesters, The New York Times reports.
An analysis by the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, which tracks legislation infringing on protest rights, identified 81 Republican anti-protest bills in 34 states this year. Many Republicans have termed these measures “anti-riot” bills even though laws already bar ban rioting. Civil liberties groups say they target First Amendment rights.
“This is consistent with the general trend of legislators’ responding to powerful and persuasive protests by seeking to silence them rather than engaging with the message of the protests,” Vera Eidelman, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Times. “If anything, the lesson from the last year, and decades, is not that we need to give more tools to police and prosecutors, it’s that they abuse the tools they already have.”
Republicans in Oklahoma and Iowa have passed bills that would grant drivers immunity from prosecution if they hit protesters in public streets.
A Republican bill in Indiana would ban anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from holding any public employment.
A Minnesota GOP proposal would ban anyone convicted of unlawful protest from getting student loans, unemployment, or housing assistance.
A bill signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week will make certain public disorder misdemeanors into felonies and bans cities from cutting police budgets. The law also increases the penalty for taking down monuments to 15 years in prison while making it easier for drivers who injure protesters to escape liability.
Dems say bills are “racist”:
“This bill is racist at its core,” Democratic Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones said of the state’s bill.
Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, who quit her job as a physical therapist to advocate for racial justice after the Oklahoma police killing of her brother Terence Crutcher, said her state’s law would impose harsher penalties for racial injustice protests than demonstrations for gun rights or against abortion.
“We all know that over the last four years that we saw white supremacy, bigotry and racism show its ugly head in so many forms,” she told the Times. “This is the continuation of the Trump administration that showed us every day that Black lives didn’t matter.”