States Weigh Laws To Discourage Demonstrations

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A confrontation between protesters and legislators in St. Paul, Mn., yesterday underscored the nation’s deepening political divide in which lawmakers in at least eight states are considering crackdowns on demonstrations, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Chants and shouting erupted after a House committee voted to pass a GOP-led measure that could make protesters financially liable if police must intervene. Minnesota is joining a growing number of states looking to discourage large, disruptive protests.

Measures aimed at toughening laws against demonstrators have been introduced in North Dakota, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, Colorado, Virginia, and Washington state as protests have proliferated in recent months over issues ranging from police shootings to oil pipelines. “I don’t think this is a coincidence that this is happening at a time in our nation where there are widespread movements led by people of color for racial equality,” said Teresa Nelson of the American Civil Liberties Union. “It is very troubling that we would see this kind of suppression and these attempts to intimidate people who are engaging in constitutionally protected speech and civil disobedience.” In Minnesota, groups have waged large rallies after the police shootings of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile, demonstrations that blocked roadways, disrupted the airport, and resulted in a weekslong encampment at a police station.

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