As citizens unhappy about the Trump administration look to build on the momentum of the historic Women’s March with additional public expressions of outrage, Republicans across the country are quietly introducing legislation aimed at limiting and even criminalizing peaceful demonstrations.
According to a recent count from the American Civil Liberties Union, at least 17 states have proposed such anti-protest bills, many of which include language ostensibly aimed at improving measures such as public safety. But upon closer analysis, these bills all appear to share the intended goal of suppressing First Amendment rights by making peaceful dissent a crime with the threat of jail time and hefty fines.
Look no further than Minnesota for a prime example. Republican lawmakers there are advancing legislation to punish protesters who block highways and airport access. While the bill’s proponents insist it will protect highway safety, critics argue that the measure instead overwhelmingly targets people participating in demonstrations by saddling them with steep fines, all while having hardly any effect on furthering roadway safety.
The legislative move to suppress protests comes amid angry town halls that have erupted across the country, where thousands of constituents have railed against Republican lawmakers for their reluctance to speak out against the Trump administration, their ill-conceived plans to dismantle Obamacare, and more. Trump notably accused former president Barack Obama of being “behind” the ongoing protests.