Thursday, April 22, 2021

Ending Democracy #2: Shut Down Protesting...I mean "rioting."

Scott Walker's Act 10 union busting plans were met with huge statewide protests. Walker couldn't even go out fishing without being confronted with a conga line of protest boaters paddling by. Despite a 100,000 protesters and tens of thousands marching daily around the Capitol, Walker didn't bother to agree to even one concession, saying this...

Hand it to Scott Walker for doing what is now spreading from Florida to every other red state, shredding the First Amendment and protesting, like when people were ticketed for protest signs and t-shirts:

On September 5, 2012 the Wisconsin Capitol Police arrest 8 people and charge them with "Unlawful display of sign" 

Shit Scott Walker Is Doing To My State: "Two of the “signs” were actually t-shirts being distributed by the organization "Muslims for Life" that helped to promote the American Red Cross blood drive taking place on the first floor. Another sign said, “We ♥Blood Donors,” and yet another was a copy of Article I, Section 4, of the Wisconsin Constitution, which reads: “The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government or any department thereof shall never be abridged.” 

Madison's peaceful protests at the time were described by right-wingers as...insurrectionists. Yup, is was bad then:

Cornell University law professor William Jacobson wrote on his blog, Legal Insurrection ... The appearance of a bullhorn-toting protester on Feb. 27 in a "COPS FOR LABOR" T-shirt showed that "the police union members involved have actively advocated and offered to participate in insurrection against the legal authority in Wisconsin."

Walker then directed the Capitol police to crack down. From Friday, Dec. 2, 2011:

This DOA policy change is aimed at cracking down on freedoms in the Capitol building ... 22 page DOA policy … effect(ive) January 1st, 2012 after a “two week education period”. Starting with most WTF policy point first:
*No civil legal recourse is available for death, injury, damage or theft of property that a Wisconsin citizen may experience in a state facility. The state and its departments, employees, agents, are “held harmless” for all suits, damages, claims, or other liabilities related to death, injury, damage, or theft of property.

*Helium balloons are not allowed in the Capitol.

*Where a “public area” is can change at any time and the only areas deemed public are the ground and 1st floors of the Capitol.

*All “events” must have a permit but for “spontaneous” events and spontaneous events must occur in response to a “triggering” event which occurred in the previous week or is occurring. Events that are advertised by social media and other means 7 or more days before the event are not “spontaneous”.  

Fast forward 10 years...Republicans are now cracking down on Protesters with felony violations. Why?: In any of the Republican dominated state governments, guess who would most likely be protesting, getting arrested, and then lose their right to vote because they committed a felony? NOTE: Rachel Maddow brought up the fact that Al Qaida once planned to use cars as deadly weapons in the US.! Republicans were listening...and instead of dealing with actual racial injustice in America…

NYTimes: A wave of new anti-protest legislation, sponsored and supported by Republicans, have happened in the 11 months since Black Lives Matter protests swept the country following the death of George Floyd. Some, like Mr. DeSantis, are labeling them “anti-riot” bills, conflating the right to peaceful protest with the rioting and looting that sometimes resulted from such protests.

“This is consistent with the general trend of legislators’ responding to powerful and persuasive protests by seeking to silence them rather than engaging with the message of the protests,” said Vera Eidelman, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Republican legislators in Oklahoma and Iowa have passed bills granting immunity to drivers whose vehicles strike and injure protesters in public streets.

A Republican proposal in Indiana would bar anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from holding state employment, including elected office. 

A Minnesota bill would prohibit those convicted of unlawful protesting from receiving student loans, unemployment benefits or housing assistance.

In Kentucky, where protests following the police killing of Breonna Taylor lasted for months last year, the State Senate passed a bill that would make it a crime to insult or taunt a police officer with “offensive or derisive” words or gestures that would have “a direct tendency to provoke a violent response.” The measure would have required that those arrested on such a charge be held in jail for at least 48 hours — a provision that does not automatically apply to those arrested on murder, rape or arson charges in Kentucky. State Senator Danny Carroll, a Republican who is a retired police officer, said his bill was needed to ensure community safety and protect law enforcement personnel. “They are under attack constantly,” he said, noting that police officers decades ago could “arrest someone for cussing them out,” until court rulings curtailed such police powers.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed sweeping legislation.

The overwhelming majority of last summer’s nationwide Black Lives Matter protests were peaceful — more than 96 percent involved no property damage or police injuries, according to The Washington Post, which also found that police officers or counterprotesters often instigated violence.

There's more...

Rolling Stone: Governor Ron DeSantis declared, “We are taking an unapologetic stand for the rule of law and public safety.” But the Republican, and close Trump ally, also made it plain that the true legislative intent was to criminalizing the protest tactics of those he denounced as “the radical left.” “Let’s be clear: this is not an anti-riot bill,” said Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. “It is a bill that criminalizes peaceful protest,” he said.

1, It lowers the threshold of a “riot” to include as few as three people engaging in “violent and disorderly conduct.” This could subject anyone at an otherwise peaceful event where such a disturbance occurs to third-degree felony charges, punishable by up to five years in prison and the loss of the right to vote. 

2, It creates a new second-degree felony of “aggravated rioting” for any large group action that, among other not-clearly-harmful and vaguely-described impacts, “endangers the safe movement of a vehicle traveling on a public street, highway, or road.”

3, The law creates a new, hazy, misdemeanor charge of “mob intimidation” that requires anyone so charged to be held until their first bail hearing — effectively giving cops carte blanche to lock up protesters overnight.

4, The bill also shields Floridians from civil liability if they happen to injure or kill a protester involved in a demonstration the authorities label a “riot.” According to testimony by the state ACLU: “A white supremacist who maliciously drove his car into protesters… like the one in Charlottesville that killed Heather Heyer, would be able to assert an affirmative defense under this bill.”

5, The new law in Florida also heightens punishment for protesters who damage or deface public monuments or flags, subjecting them to felony charges and forcing them to pay restitution for any damages.

6, The law enhances the power of the state government at the expense of local jurisdictions, taking aim at progressive politicians who attempt to rein in aggressive police tactics or bloated police budgets. Specifically, the law exposes local governments to financial liability for damages to property if they are found not to have responded aggressively enough to a riot or and “unlawful assembly.” The law also grants the state government power to review and reverse cuts made by local elected officials to their law-enforcement budgets.

For his part DeSantis mugged for the cameras and played to a national audience of FoxNews watchers. “If you riot, loot, harm others, particularly law enforcement, you’re going to jail,” he said. “We’re not going to end up like Portland.”

even more...

Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement. "It is no coincidence," that HB1 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 484, "were introduced by politicians who harshly criticized" millions of Floridians and Americans for demanding "racial justice and police accountability."  

The ACLU of Florida explained the full ramifications of the legislation:

By redefining "rioting," the bill grants police officers broad discretion in deciding who could be arrested and charged with a third-degree felony at a protest and fails to provide protection for people who have not engaged in any disorderly and violent conduct. In Florida, a felony charge strips people of their voting rights.

This bill would also hinder local governments from determining how to allocate law enforcement resources to address critical needs in their local communities. It allows the Governor, with the Cabinet, to usurp control of a city budget and amend it to their liking at the appeal of any county commissioner or state attorney, regardless of whether local elected officials approve of changes made in the budget. It would also shield violent counter-protesters from civil liability for killing a peaceful protester or demonstrator with their vehicle, and make pulling down a Confederate flag a punishable offense for up to 15 years in prison.

Since the right-wing insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, "at least 13 states have taken up legislation to crack down on protests," NBC News reported Thursday. "In addition to Florida, legislators in Arizona, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington" have introduced bills that critics say use the violence at the Capitol to justify the repression of Black Lives Matter and other social justice demonstrations.

(They are) taking advantage of outrage over the far-right coup attempt to undermine demonstrations for progressive causes.

Florida's anti-protest bill remains highly unpopular. According to a poll conducted last month by Florida Politics, 63% of the state's voters view the legislation unfavorably.

More than 100 law professors throughout the country denounced the proposal, characterizing it as unconstitutional and "morally unconscionable."

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