34 states considering anti-protest bills introduced by Republicans: report
Republican lawmakers in 34 states have introduced more than 80 anti-protest bills thus far in the 2021 legislative session following months of civil unrest and ongoing protests against police brutality.
Elly Page, a senior legal adviser at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law that tracks bills limiting the right to protest, told The New York Times Wednesday that so far this year, the number of anti-protest bills are already more than double the number introduced in any other year.
The legislative proposals include those which GOP lawmakers say attempt to combat rioting and support law enforcement personnel in responding to unlawful protests.
The bills come following months of demonstrations spurred in part by the May police killing of George Floyd. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for roughly nine minutes, was found guilty Tuesday of murder and manslaughter.
However, additional protests over the recent police killings of 20-year-old Daunte Wright and 13-year-old Adam Toledo have spurred concerns of further civil unrest and riots throughout the country, thus reigniting calls from Republicans for more police presence and support.
Among the wave of anti-protest bills is one signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday. Known as the “anti-riot bill,” the measure requires that cities receive state approval before cutting police budgets and makes it a felony to destroy historical structures, including flags and memorials, during protests.
The law, which goes into effect immediately, also includes a number of other penalties, including increasing the charge for battery on a police officer during a riot to a minimum of six months in jail.
DeSantis praised the law during a news conference Monday, calling it “the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country.”
GOP-controlled legislatures in Oklahoma and Iowa have recently passed bills that seek to grant immunity to drivers who strike or injure protesters with their vehicles in public streets during demonstrations, and a Republican bill in Indiana would prohibit anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from working in a state or local government role.
In Minnesota, a bill proposed in the state Senate earlier this month would prevent those convicted of an unlawful protest violation from receiving student loans or other forms of financial aid, including unemployment benefits.
While the measures have secured widespread support from Republicans, Democrats and civil rights advocacy groups argue that the wave of proposals could threaten Americans’ First Amendment rights to free speech and lawful assembly.
Vera Eidelman, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Times Wednesday that the bills are “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.”