Less than three weeks into his presidency, Donald Trump is clearly what George W. Bush once claimed to be: “a uniter, not a divider.” Only he’s been uniting many hundreds of thousands of people in protest and many millions in outrage at his bigoted, right-wing actions since taking office.
But Trump’s right-wing admirers around the country have seized on a strategy to push back against mass protest — by criminalizing it. Lawmakers in multiple states are proposing measures explicitly designed to curtail dissent.
As Baher Azmy, legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, explained to Rewire, “These legislators, and no doubt future ones, are emboldened by the narrow, authoritarian caste of mind emanating from the new president — one that is ignorant of the basic premises of a healthy democracy and cowardly in the face of peaceful challenges to an unjust status quo.”
Writing at the Intercept, Spencer Woodman points to at least 10 states where Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation that would increase jail time and fines for activists and activist groups charged with violations of law related to protest, label peaceful protesters as “terrorists,” and even condone physical harm against protesters.
“These are reactionary voices who are out to quash dissent, all directed at Black Lives Matter — right-wing legislators who are catering to the prejudices of their base,” attorney Jordan Kushner, a member of the National Lawyers Guild, recently told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “It’s the Donald Trump trend at the state level.”
In perhaps the most stunning example, a Republican lawmaker in North Dakota has introduced a bill, known as HB 1203, that would exempt motorists who unintentionally injure or kill people engaged in protests on public roads from facing any criminal penalties or damages.
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