FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS CRUSHED IN RED STATES
BUT IT'S OKAY SINCE IT'S DIRECTED AGAINST LIBERALS AND PROGRESSIVES!
Ever get the feeling that you just want to pack a couple of Army issue duffel bags and run away to some tropical island where no one knows your name? If not, then you’re in much better shape than I’m in. Part of the reason for my wishing that I could just escape from Trumpland, is the fact that now 32 state legislatures are controlled by Republicans. This fact, in and of itself, might not be so terrible if it wasn’t for the actions that so many Red States states are taking in the “revenge against liberals” campaign that’s sweeping the country. Note that the few remaining Blue States have considered no such restrictions.
Remember the Tea Party? Remember how they were screeching about the loss of freedom, liberty, democracy and the American Way under the Obama Administration? Of course you do. You couldn't help it since they filled the media with this crap every day. But today, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones have taken over from the Tea Party and screech daily about how we liberals and progressives are chipping away at America's basic rights, liberties and democratic institutions. But you know something? If you actually take the time to look at the laws Red States are proposing and passing, - you know, the facts - a very different picture emerges. From Voter ID laws (old hat by this time) to criminalizing street protests, the breadth and depth of these laws is astonishing. And while Rush and Alex may proclaim that liberals are destroying America, it’s actually these right winger Republicans who are chipping away at our freedoms. But, and here’s the reason why you don’t hear the Tea Party, Rust Belters and Trumpettes complaining about the loss of liberty and freedom these unconstitutional laws represent, it's because they are directed at us hated liberals. Talk about "identity politics."
Here’s a piece from an organization called “Grassroots Change” that I ran across that summarizes what’s been going on.
Punishing Grassroots Action
“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…” – US Constitution, Amendment 1
Opponents of grassroots movements have a new policy strategy in addition to preemption – laws punishing participation in rallies, protests, marches, and other forms of “assembly” that are generally protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
A recent wave of state legislative proposals seeks to criminalize or impose civil penalties on certain forms of speech and assembly, ranging from to who injure or kill protesters.
North Dakota HB 1203 (2017)
While many of these proposals, if adopted, may ultimately be found unconstitutional, they nonetheless have the potential (and intent) to discourage participation in otherwise lawful rallies, marches, and protests.
So-called “direct action” has played an important role in grassroots movements from the civil rights movement of the 1960’s to protecting casino workers from secondhand tobacco smoke today. Rallies, marches and other public events provide an opportunity for advocates to voice their concerns about, and solutions to, health and safety threats; educate the public about those threats and potential solutions; and reach policymakers. Criminalizing or otherwise punishing these actions can negatively impact grassroots engagement and democratic participation.
At Grassroots Change, we believe that grassroots movements need both passion and smart strategies to succeed. Our movement building , based on both practical experience and research, illustrates how movements can transform the passion for change into a clear, actionable vision that energizes grassroots advocates. Protests, rallies, and other events can be an important part of that process, and therefore if activists lose their ability to peacefully join together, their movements may lose their voice.
Grassroots Change has documented the role of direct action in a number of grassroots movements. In our case study, , we report on the central role of protests and civil disobedience in Denton, Texas’ movement to ban fracking. After Denton passed a ballot measure banning fracking in 2014, the Texas legislature preempted local authority over all aspects of oil & gas regulation in early 2015.
Residents launched a civil disobedience campaign throughout the summer of 2015, organizing sit-ins and blocking fracking operations. The message was clear: “If you want to frack here, you have to roll over us and local democracy.”
In 2016, students at the University of Texas at Austin organized an unusual, and effective, protest in opposition to Texas’ “campus carry” law, which preempted firearm bans at all public colleges in Texas, thus allowing concealed handguns on campuses, including in dorms and classrooms. Protesters carried sex toys in public to draw attention to the absurdity of carrying handguns (legal under the newly-adopted campus carry law) versus carrying sex toys (illegal in Texas). , “We wanted something fun that [young] people could really engage in. Because it’s hard to get involved in the political process at our age, people our age don’t tend to vote or get involved, and this is so easy.”
The Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is perhaps the most well known example of direct action in recent years. Among other actions, the Native American “water protectors,” as they called themselves, used prayer and meditation, and blocked roads, to promote awareness of the potential of the pipeline construction and route. According to the , “bills in… North Dakota (some of the earliest) were clearly introduced as a direct response to… the resistance by Indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock.”
The current wave of proposals targeting protests and other gatherings includes:
A motor vehicle operator who unintentionally causes injury or death to a person who obstructs or interferes with the regular flow of vehicular traffic… is not liable for such injury or death. – Florida SB 1096 (2017)
· (Fines and criminal sanctions for obstructing traffic; Immunity for drivers who injure or kill protestors)
Any person who in any manner knowingly destroys, breaks, removes, or otherwise tampers with or attempts to destroy, break, remove, or otherwise tamper with any equipment associated with oil or gas gathering operations commits a class 6 FELONY. – Colorado SB 17-035 (2017)
· (Adding “rioting” to organized crime statutes and authorizing the seizure of assets of those involved in a protest)
The future of these proposals is unclear. Some bills have already been rejected, as in the case of and , or amended, as in the case of . According to the , Arizona’s SB 1142 has passed the State Senate but is not expected to move forward in the House and Michigan’s proposal has passed the House but is not expected to pass.
NOTE: It’s quite a commentary on how the right wing actually defines such terms as “Freedom” or “Liberty” or “Democracy.” When is that last time you heard
Have A Really Great Day! But if you live in Oklahoma or Colorado, make sure there are no cops around as you are destroying those backhoes that are installing fracking pipelines!