*Since Donald Trump was sworn in as president nearly twenty states have tried to pass laws to prevent people from protesting! That’s right: There are some state legislators who have a problem with you exercising your constitutional right to free speech, especially if they don’t agree with you!
In Louisiana, North and South Dakota some state lawmakers don’t like it when their constituents protest against environmental issues such as safe construction of oil and gas pipelines. And in Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallen signed into law a bill that makes it a felony to protest on land that is considered a part of the “critical infrastructure.” Critical infrastructure of what is the question. I guess that means it’s up to the discretion of local law enforcement whether protesters are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.
The bottom line is some people within the establishment want to tell you when and how to question the establishment. And then threaten you with a criminal record if you don’t follow their rules. That’s like a man trying to tell a woman how she should feel about a sexual assault!
James Alex Fields Jr. was one of those people who were intolerant of opposing views during the Charlottesville protest in 2017. But he wasn’t a politician with the power to create laws. So he took the law into his own hands and drove his car through a crowd of protesters killing Heather Heyer and injuring others. Last week a jury convicted him of murder and malicious wounding. Now he’s been sentenced to federal prison.
But if some state lawmakers had their way Fields never would’ve faced any criminal charges, let alone been convicted and sentenced to life in federal prison. That’s because at the time Fields drove his car through the crowd of demonstrators, Republicans in six states were poised to pass laws that would protect drivers who hit protesters when those protesters block traffic without permits.
It’s no surprise North Dakota was one of those states. Republican state representative Keith Kempenich called protesters terrorists who create intentional acts of intimidation when they block cars from passing in the process of protesting!
Although some people might agree that protesters who block traffic without permits should face some form of punishment, disrupting the lives of those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo is the most effective way to initiate change. Changing the laws to protect people who use violence against conscientious objectors is itself intimidation. Instead of upholding the U.S. Constitution, some lawmakers choose to use their political power to villainize their constituents. And it gives people like Fields the courage to live out the hate that consumes them.
Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] for comments, questions and speaking inquiries.