Denver International Airport (DIA) began enforcing a rule on Sunday that requires anyone interested in demonstrating to submit an application seven days in advance. The regulation was challenged by protesters, including one who recorded a video criticizing Denver Police Commander Tony Lopez for violating his First Amendment rights.
There’s more about the Denver situation at the link.
But the movement toward limiting protesters’ free speech rights is not confined to the terminals of DIA. In anticipation of an active protest movement during Trump’s administration, multiple Republican-controlled states are currently pushing for legislation that would discourage and even criminalize nonviolent, public demonstrations.
In Minnesota, a billpassed a Republican-controlled committee last week that would allow cities to sue protesters in order to collect money to pay police forces required at the demonstration. Lawmakers drafted the legislation in response to massive Black Lives Matter protests that erupted in the state after a police officer shot and killed Philando Castile.
This sounds very much like what happened here in nDakota and the water protectors. People will get bilked for money, and I’d put odds on that money being used the way it was here, to purchase military toys for cop shops. All the better to threaten you with, my dear. Being able to sue anyone who protests will have the very chilling effect of shutting down effective protests, because too many people will not be willing to face such a consequence; most people can’t afford to face such a consequence. Allowing a lawsuit against people for exercising their constitutional rights, does that sound like a democracy to you? Speaking of picking pockets…
And in Michigan, Republican lawmakers are attacking both unions and protesters by pushing legislation that would increase fines against picketers to $1,000 per person per day of a picket and $10,000 per day for an organization or union involved in the picket. The bill passed the state House of Representatives in December, but was set aside by the Senate.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that will be an end to such legislation though, it won’t be.
Taking a different tactic, four other states are considering anti-protest laws that would target demonstrators who protest on the streets, according to The Intercept. The bills have all been introduced in the last few months as responses to high-profile protests by Black Lives Matter activists and opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline that shut down highways.
The Intercept summarized the bills that Republican lawmakers have proposed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Washington, and Iowa:
In North Dakota, for instance, Republicans introduced a bill last week that would allow motorists to run over and kill any protester obstructing a highway as long as a driver does so accidentally. In Minnesota, a bill introduced by Republicans last week seeks to dramatically stiffen fines for freeway protests and would allow prosecutors to seek a full year of jail time for protesters blocking a highway. Republicans in Washington state have proposed a plan to reclassify as a felony civil disobedience protests that are deemed “economic terrorism” … And in Iowa a Republican lawmaker has pledged to introduce legislation to crack down on highway protests.
“This is a marked uptick in bills that would criminalize or penalize protected speech and protest, and every person should be alarmed at that trend,” she said, calling the bills unconstitutional. “We should also be alarmed by the attitude they betray, which is that when Americans get out into the streets and make their voices heard — recently, in record numbers — their elected representatives’ response is not to listen to those concerns but to attempt to silence and criminalize them.”
“That goes against the very fabric of our constitutional democracy, and legislators introducing these bills should be ashamed,” she added. “To try to silence those who are speaking up right now is a betrayal of American values.”
Yes, they should be ashamed, but they aren’t. That’s because there is no democracy anymore. Gone, vanished, set on fire and up in smoke. Silence people, quash dissent, order compliance. If you can’t see where we are headed, it’s because you refuse to see.