Don't Criminalize Protesting in MN

Call to Action from CREDO:

 

In response to massive protests that followed two police killings of Black men, Jamar Clark and Philando Castile, Minnesota Republicans are pushing two bills to put protesting itself in the crosshairs.

 

Both bills single out protesters for increased criminal penalties and costs. Peaceful demonstrators could face up to a year in prison or be forced to pay for the costs of police response – a punishment that Minnesota currently applies only to arsonists.1

 

These bills are moving through the Statehouse. With enough public outcry, we can stop these draconian attacks on the First Amendment from becoming law.

 

Tell Minnesota legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton: Reject H.F. 322 and H.F. 390. Don’t criminalize dissent. Click here to sign the petition.

 

The first bill, House File 322, would allow cities or the state to sue participants of “an unlawful assembly” or “public nuisance” for the cost of police responses to the events.2 The bill is worryingly broad, and it’s possible that a protest organizer or participant could be sued for the entire cost of a city’s public safety response to an event. It may also be unconstitutional, according to the Minnesota ACLU.3

 

The second bill, House File 390, would increase penalties for obstructing traffic access to an airport, highway or public transit system.4 Non-violent protesters would face up to a year in prison and a $3,000 fine, and those who “communicate violent intent” would face up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The penalties would put protesters in the same criminal category as those who commit multiple domestic assaults.5

 

Disrupting traffic or causing a public nuisance are already against the law. Moreover, as one of the witnesses who testified against the bill poignantly noted during a committee hearing:

 

Is there anyone here today who honestly thinks that justice would have been better served if the police in Selma, Alabama, had charged poor African-Americans thousands of dollars in civil penalties above and beyond their statutory fines? That Dr. King should have asked his followers to stand in a ditch so as not to inconvenience anyone because they didn’t have a permit?6

 

The only purpose of these bills is to intimidate protesters and squelch Minnesota’s Black Lives Matter movement.

 

Tell Minnesota legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton: Reject H.F. 322 and H.F. 390. Don’t criminalize dissent. Click here to sign the petition.

 

As opposition to the extreme right-wing agenda grows, these anti-protest bills are also part of the Republican establishment’s nationwide assault on dissent.7 At least 15 state legislatures have introduced anti-protest bills in recent months.8

 

It is no accident that the nationwide effort to criminalize protesters is happening just as a grassroots progressive protest movement is exploding. The day after Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s Marches represented the largest single day of protest in U.S. history.9 Republican lawmakers nationwide faced so much outrage from their constituents at town hall meetings that many opted to cancel them.10 Progressives are gaining momentum. We cannot allow Republican extremists to chip away at our rights to assemble and voice our opposition.

 

Tell Minnesota legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton: Don’t criminalize dissent. Click the link below to sign the petition:

 

https://act.credoaction.com/sign/MN_protest_bills?t=7&akid=22259.2784041.K5gxFl

 

Thank you for fighting back,

 

Brandy Doyle, Campaign Manager

CREDO Action from Working Assets