Will Peaceful Protests Be Criminalized?

It was a great weekend for peaceful protests. With over one million in attendance, the Women's March on Washington D.C. became the largest inaugural protest in history. And around the country, 3.3 million people attended marches in more than 500 cities. But in eight states — states that hosted dozens of those successful marches — Republican lawmakers are working to criminalize the act of peaceful protest.

The Intercept reports that Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, Iowa, Indiana, North Dakota, Virginia, and Colorado are all pushing bills to increase penalties for peaceful demonstration. Conservatives in North Dakota are even aiming for "a bill that would allow motorists to run over and kill protesters." Meanwhile, in Indiana, The Indy Star reports that the state's proposed bill would instruct police to use "any means necessary" to dismantle a protest.

As for the Virginia bill to add penalties for "unlawful assembly," State Sen. Jennifer McLellan — like so many Democratic politicians across the country — is troubled: “As someone who is a direct beneficiary of the civil rights movement and all the gains that were the direct result of civil disobedience, I strongly oppose this effort to further criminalize dissent,” McClellan told The Intercept. “The way the bill is worded is very broad: Take the student sit-in leaders — you could put those protesters in jail for up to a year.”

Wondering what your current rights are as a protester? Take a look. Here's hoping these rights remain protected.

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