Republicans in statehouses across the U.S. are devising legal tools to regulate inappropriate public dissent as demonstrators take to the streets to protest President Donald Trump in waves not seen since the Vietnam War.
At least 10 bills to limit protests have been introduced in recent months. North Dakota is considering protection for motorists who unintentionally kill protesters blocking roads. Washington state Senator Doug Ericksen would punish those who “disrupt our economy.” Next week, North Carolina Senator Dan Bishop will call for imprisoning people who intimidate ex-officials, after former Governor Pat McCrory was pursued down a Washington, D.C., alley by a group chanting “Shame!”
“That extends over the borderline of decency,” Bishop said in an interview. Though such demonstrators are “constitutionally entitled” to express their views, he said, they aren’t free to threaten violence.
At the state level, bills have been proposed in Missouri to prohibit demonstrators committing illegal acts from wearing masks or robes; in Iowa, to levy five years in prison for traffic disruptions; in Washington, to punish protesters who interfere with commerce; and in Minnesota, to keep roads clear and allow governments to sue violators for costs. All are awaiting committee hearings or other legislative hurdles.