When the Constitution’s framers devised the Bill of Rights they made sure the First Amendment contained the most important rights for the people living in a free representative democracy. Besides the peoples’ right of free speech and a free press, the right of the people to peaceably assemble for a redress of their grievances is the most important right. Republicans hate that particular right and are intent on making it a serious crime with very harsh penalties.
Republicans are aware that many of the changes to America they detest have come about because the people assembled en masse and protested; they are not about to allow it to happen yet again. After all, mass movements and protests helped women get the right to vote, put an end to the Vietnam War, ended the hideous practice of segregation, and likely worst to Republicans gave people of color a semblance of equality.
Since masses of Americans began gathering last year to protest white supremacy and law enforcement officers murdering unarmed African Americans, Republicans at the state level are taking a cue from their loser demigod Trump and taking action any tyrannical dictator would condone as a first step to outright fascist tyranny.
Because Republicans are leaning heavily into fascism since Trump, they are attacking the right of the people to assemble with tactics approaching those of the East German Stasi under the former Soviet Union.
After hundreds-of-thousands of Americans assembled across the nation to protest out-of-control police violence targeting unarmed African Americans and expose systemic racism, Republicans are going all in to ensure if it happens again the protestors will severely suffer – even though they are exercising their First Amendment right.
Trump made demonizing activists and protestors his cause célèbre during his losing campaign. He spent an inordinate amount of time and energy warning white people that the Black Lives Matter movement was a “symbol of hate” and a leftist plan to destroy white people’s symbols of slavery and their superiority over people of color. Lacking the authority to ban peaceful protests unilaterally, he left it to Republicans at the state level to severely punish any American exercising their Constitutional right to gather and speak out against systemic racism; something Republicans and conservatives on the Supreme Court claim does not exist.
Obviously, Republicans can’t constitutionally ban Americans from peaceably assembling, but they can pass laws at the state level to make protests a crime; something they are doing at a record pace.
According to Ella Page, the senior legal adviser with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Republicans “in 34 states have introduced 81 anti-protest bills during the 2021 legislative session — more than twice as many proposals as in any other year.”
A sampling of anti-protest bills in Republican states are those like in Oklahoma and Iowa that grant immunity immunity to drivers whose vehicles strike and injure protesters in public streets. Florida, where the governor just signed what he labeled the “strongest anti-rioting, pro-law-enforcement legislation in the country” also grants civil immunity for any driver that runs over protesters.
In Indiana, a Republican proposal bars anyone convicted of “unlawful assembly” from holding state employment including elected office. A recently proposed Minnesota bill prohibits anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from receiving a student loan, unemployment benefits, federal housing and nutrition assistance and healthcare assistance.
It is noteworthy that nearly all of these bills grant police authority to label a peaceable assembly “a riot” at their discretion to start legally arresting citizens exercising their constitutional right. Afterwards, the demonstrators will be tried and convicted for an “unlawful gathering” and face the harsh consequences for what they believed was exercising their constitutional right.
For any semi-conscious American it should be glaringly apparent that Republicans are Hell-bent on silencing any dissent or opposition to their neo-fascist machinations.
In several Republican controlled states harsh voter suppression laws are being enacted to silence Americans’ voices at the ballot box, and now they are in the process of revoking the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble to seek redress to their grievances; in this case the grievance is opposing law enforcements’ wanton killing of people of color and the systemic racism plaguing the nation.
If any American thinks because there is a Democrat in the White House, or a Democratic majority in Congress, that the threat of fascism is waning, they are blind dumb fools.
Republicans are a dying majority, like their vile religious right base of support, but they will silence dissent whether at the ballot box or on the streets and they have a federal judiciary ready and willing to give them assistance.
How long will it be before some Republican state legislature passes legislation “granting civil immunity” to any white supremacist who shoots and kills protestors holding a sign they disagree with, or votes while Black, or refuses to obey a religious edict? As Bess Levin wrote over at Vanity Fair: we are one Republican bill away from seeing that happen.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.