Red State Legislatures Cracking Down On First Amendment



The Washington Post provided this list of bills floating around legislatures across the country to limit and restrict the right to dissent and protest.


Arizona’s bill would open up protests to anti-racketeering legislation, targeting protesters with the same laws used to combat organized crime syndicates. It would also allow police to seize the assets of anyone involved in a protest that at some point becomes violent. It recently passed the state Senate on a party-line vote and is now before the House.


A bill under consideration in Colorado would strengthen penalties for “tampering” with oil and gas equipment. It’s intended to prevent activists from shutting off pipelines, a tactic that’s been used in other states.


A bill introduced by Republican George Gainer in the Florida Senate this month would provide criminal penalties for protesters obstructing traffic and exempt drivers from liability if they struck a protester under certain conditions. It was filed this week, and if enacted would take force on July 1.


A “Back the Badge” bill recently passed by the Georgia Senate increases penalties for blocking “any highway, street, sidewalk or other public passage.” The bill is sponsored by six Republican senators.


A bill supported by nine Republican sponsors would make protesters who intentionally block highways subject to felony charges and up to five years in prison. The bill’s lead sponsor told the Des Moines Register it was introduced in response to a November incident in which a protest Trump shut down part of Interstate 80 in Iowa.


An Indiana Senate committee recently toned down a bill that would have allowed police to shut down highway protests using “any means necessary.” The current version allows police to issue fines for such behavior.


A Michigan bill voted on late last year would have increased fines for certain “mass picketing” behavior, and made it easier for courts to shut down such demonstrations.


Bills under consideration in Minnesota would increase fines for protesters blocking highways and airports. A separate measure before the legislature would make it possible for jurisdictions to charge protesters for the costs of policing the protests.


A Republican lawmaker has introduced legislation that would make it illegal for protesters to wear masks, robes or other disguises during protests deemed to be illegal.


A bill before the Mississippi legislature would make obstruction of traffic a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and a five-year prison sentence.

North Carolina

A North Carolina Republican has pledged to introduce legislation making it a crime to “threaten, intimidate or retaliate against” current or former state officials, in response to an incident involving the heckling of Gov. Pat McCrory. The Senator proposing the legislation, Dan Bishop, confirmed via email that he still intends to introduce the legislation, perhaps as early as next week, after consulting with potential co-sponsors.

North Dakota

A number of North Dakota bills have been introduced in response to the long-standing protests there against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The measure that drew the most attention was a bill that would have removed penalties for motorists who strike protesters with their car in some circumstances. That bill failed to make it out of the House, but a number of other measures increasing penalties for certain types of protest action are advancing through the legislature.


Inspired by pipeline protests in North Dakota, the Oklahoma legislature is considering a bill that would increase penalties for trespassing on certain pieces of “critical infrastructure” like pipelines and railways.


A novel piece of legislation in Oregon would require public community colleges and universities to expel any student convicted of participating in a violent riot.

South Dakota

A Senate panel in South Dakota recently approved a bill that would increase penalties for certain acts of trespassing and blocking highways. It’s a response to pipeline protests in North Dakota, and to the potential for similar protests in South Dakota if the Keystone XL pipeline gets built.


A Tennessee Republican wants drivers to be protected from liability if they inadvertently strike a protester who is blocking a roadway.


A Virginia bill that would have increased penalties for people who refused to leave the scene of a riot or unlawful protest died in the state Senate last month. The bill had been requested by law enforcement.

Washington state

Washington lawmakers are considering a bill to increase penalties for people blocking highways and railways, acts that the bill’s sponsor has characterized as “economic terrorism.”



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