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Wednesday, February 01, 2017


By any means necessary

by Tom Sullivan

Along with the ongoing protests, Republican legislatures across the country over a period of weeks have announced measures to quell protest. Of course, they target particular kinds of protests engaged in by particular kinds (and colors) of people. But they also shine a light into just what "values" these lawmakers hold dear and just whose lives and concerns they believe matter.

North Dakota, for instance. This from KTLA Los Angeles:

Rep. Keith Kempenich introduced the bill, which states that if a driver “unintentionally” causes injury or death to someone blocking traffic on a roadway, then the driver will not be liable for damages.

Kempenich said he was spurred to act after Dakota Access Pipeline protesters last year moved to block public roadways, scaring some of his constituents.

“It turned from a protest to basically terrorism on the roadways, and the bill got introduced for people to be able to drive down the roads without fear of running into somebody and having to be liable for them,” he told CNN.
If such a bill had been in place when I rode a bicycle in dayglo spandex, more than a few drivers angry about ... that is, terrorized by having to slow down behind me might have “unintentionally” run me over and been held blameless under law.

More from Iowa:
A bill in Iowa was inspired by a protest against Donald Trump shortly after the November election. More than 100 demonstrators blocked traffic on Interstate 80, just outside Iowa City, Iowa, stopping traffic on the busy trucking route for almost a half-hour.
(Or about the amount of time I was stopped on I-26 when President Bush flew in for a speech in Columbia, SC.)
"You're not just stopping traffic," said Republican state Sen. Jake Chapman about his bill, which would apply to people blocking highways with speeds posted above 55 mph. Violators could get a felony and spend five years in prison, plus a fine of up to $7,500.

"You're impeding law enforcement ability to get to call where there could be serious life-threatening situations," said Chapman, who also works for an ambulance service.
The Intercept summarized bills by five states:
In North Dakota, for instance, Republicans introduced a bill last week that would allow motorists to run over and kill any protester obstructing a highway as long as a driver does so accidentally. In Minnesota, a bill introduced by Republicans last week seeks to dramatically stiffen fines for freeway protests and would allow prosecutors to seek a full year of jail time for protesters blocking a highway. Republicans in Washington state have proposed a plan to reclassify as a felony civil disobedience protests that are deemed “economic terrorism.” Republicans in Michigan introduced and then last month shelved an anti-picketing law that would increase penalties against protestors and would make it easier for businesses to sue individual protestors for their actions. And in Iowa a Republican lawmaker has pledged to introduce legislation to crack down on highway protests
Since then (January 19), at least five more states have proposed legislation targeting protest.

The Washington state bill is particularly illuminating (emphasis mine):
Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) doesn’t like what he sees out of recent anti-Trump protests. The Washington State lawmaker is seeking to criminalize what he calls “economic terrorism.” But, experts we spoke to question whether the bill would pass constitutional muster.

“The measure would allow felony prosecution of those who intentionally break the law in an attempt to intimidate or coerce private citizens or the government by obstructing economic activity,” his office said in a news release publicized Tuesday.
Thus, someone's "right" to make money (enumerated in the Bill of Rights somewhere?) would be considered superior to another's exercising 1st Amendment rights, both according to state law and Ericksen's values. If the protesters carried guns, it would become a 2nd Amendment issue and a different matter altogether. Ericksen was Donald Trump's deputy campaign director in Washington.

But even more noteworthy is a bill introduced last month in Indiana:
A bill that would require public officials in Indiana to dispatch law enforcement swiftly to remove any protesters blocking traffic by “any means necessary” prompted uproar on Wednesday.

Opponents of the bill, introduced by a Republican state senator, rushed to the general assembly in Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon to attend a hearing for the legislation, arguing that it could give a green light to the police to shut down protests harshly “even to the point of costing lives”.

The proposed law, simply labelled Senate Bill 285, or SB 285, and designed to deal with “traffic obstruction by protestors” would go into effect in July if passed.
State senator Jim Tomes' past bills, reports the Guardian, include "making it easier for drunk drivers to get a gun license and a proposal to jail transgender people for up to a year" for using a bathroom of a gender not on their birth certificates.

Tomes' “any means necessary” bill is currently in committee. A man of his talents may have a future in the Trump administration.

I wonder does Tomes have any clue where that phrase entered contemporary popular culture?