An assault on the first amendment


"American Flag" by ayblazerman is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

American’s constitutional right to protest is under assault

In an attack on basic civil liberties, Republican lawmakers across the country are now attempting to remove penalties for drivers that kill protesters blocking roadways.  

In states such as Oklahoma, Republican lawmakers, have passed a bill that grants both civil and criminal immunity to drivers who kill or maim protesters fleeing from a “riot.”

The bill, known as HB 1674, which is now headed to governor Kevin Stitt, states the following:

“A motor vehicle operator who unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual shall not be criminally or civilly liable for the injury or death, if […] the injury or death of the individual occurred while the motor vehicle operator was fleeing from a riot […] under a reasonable belief that fleeing was necessary to protect the motor vehicle operator from serious injury or death.”

This seems fine divorced of all context, but it does not take a legal scholar to figure out what the provisions in this bill will actually be used for. 

This bill is just the latest in a hoard of GOP bills aimed at punishing protesters. 

Perhaps if they actually cared about Americans they would attempt to address why people are protesting in the streets instead of turning America into some sick police state.

Similar bills are being proposed in Tennessee whose legislature proposed a bill, HB 0513,  with similar provisions to the OK bill with the fun added bonus of charging protesters who block roadways with a felony (which conveniently removes their right to vote). The bill also criminalizes speech that causes “emotional distress.” Such vague legal provisions are disturbing, plain and simple. 

In a similar vein, Kentucky passed a bill criminalizing the act of insulting a police officer. Four anti-protest bills were introduced in Ohio, and Florida is poised to pass a similar resolution to criminalize protesters blocking roadways.

Since 2016, 30 bills have been enacted that restrict Americans’ constitutional right to peaceful assembly, with 68 more still pending. 47 of the 50 states have considered such laws, Minnesota among them, a statistic that should make any patriotic American disgusted. 

Left or right, conservative or liberal, supporting such provisions makes one decidedly un-American. Restricting one’s right to protest and attempting to “persuade” people against it is a basic attack on our first amendment, a fundamental tenant that this country was built on.

I can only hope that the GOP comes to love the first amendment as much as they claim to love the second.