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The Number of Anti-Protest Bills Continue to Climb Across the Country

While anti-protest legislation has been on the rise since 2017, the situation has begun to snowball in the past year, with more than 90 anti-protest bills spanning 35 state legislatures introduced since May 2020. Labeled by some states as “Anti-Riot” legislation, many of the bills aim to suppress racial justice protests while simultaneously absolving individuals that harm protestors. While there are many potential consequences of these proposed bills, there are three main points which summarize the situation: 1. Increased Discretion for Law Enforcement: The vague definitions of words like “riot” and “obstruction” put forth in many of these bills would allow law enforcement authorities even more discretion to criminalize and intimidate protestors. 2. Increased Penalties for Protestors: Some of the penalties proposed in these bills include barring those convicted of unlawful assembly from holding state employment and receiving access to student loans, housing assistance, and unemployment in the future. In the state of Florida, it is now a felony if a protestor destroys historical structures, such as a flag or memorial, during a protest. 3. Increased Immunity for White Supremacists: Bills have already been passed in Oklahoma and Iowa which grant immunity to motorists that hit those protesting in public streets with their vehicle. In Florida, an individual that injures or kills a protestor could avoid liability in a civil lawsuit so long as they can establish that the problem “arose from” conduct by an individual which was “acting in furtherance of a riot”. Civil society advocates have pointed out that this level of immunity provides incentives for vigilante groups and white supremacists to act against social justice protestors. While each one of these aspects are dangerous individually, the combination of all three takes the situation to another level. As Clément Voule, an UN independent human rights expert, said “The targeting of the Black Lives Matter movement, while creating legal protections for those who attack them, is deeply disturbing.” “The targeting of the Black Lives Matter movement, while creating legal protections for those who attack them, is deeply disturbing.”

- UN Independent Human Rights Expert, Clément Voule Get to the point: Anti-protest bills are continuing to sweep legislatures across the country, with more than 90 bills across 35 states introduced since May 2020. Many of these bills would enact a dangerous combination of penalizing those that stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, while simultaneously increasing immunity for those that wish to do them harm. Sources:

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